Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Warn Gangs to Get out of Town; Crackdown on Yobs Who Disturb the General Peace

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Warn Gangs to Get out of Town; Crackdown on Yobs Who Disturb the General Peace

Article excerpt

Byline: By Hayley Beattie (01434) 600-546

GANGS of youths causing trouble in Northumberland towns were last night warned of tough police action.

New dispersal order powers will be introduced in Hexham from November 1 to crack down on a wave of violence and antisocial behaviour.

Although the town centre area covered by the order represents just 5% of the local police beat, a third of all anti-social behaviour offences occur there. Of all recorded crime in Hexham, 25% happens within the area of the dispersal order.

In the last six months, there have been 87 arrests in the area around the Market Place, 35 of those for public order and violence against the person offences. Of these incidents, 77% involved males under 30.

Under the new order, officers can disperse groups of two or more people if they believe their presence has resulted, or is likely to result, in any members of the public being intimidated, harassed, alarmed or distressed. Police can also remove under-16s to their homes if they are in the area between 9pm and 6am.

The order is only the second time Northumbria Police has used such powers, but officers said the scheme could be rolled out if needed in other towns.

Hexham Community Inspector Kevin Oates said: "The decision to impose a dispersal order hasn't been taken lightly. Hexham has an excellent reputation as a low crime area and a safe place but, like other similar towns across the country, we do have localised issues with crime and disorder.

"It's not acceptable for the law-abiding majority to feel frightened and intimidated by the small number of people who hang around in the centre of town, particularly at weekends. We will not hesitate to break up any groups causing trouble and take home anyone we believe is under 16."

A similar dispersal order has been enforced on two occasion at the Brockwell Centre in Cramlington.

The first order, which ran from May 2005 to November 2005, saw a drop in crime of 44%. Supt Gordon Millward, of the Northumberland area command in Bedlington, said: "There are a number of options open to us in terms of tackling anti-social behaviour across the force but, in the right circumstances, dispersal orders could be made in other towns and communities. …

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