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Police get new powers to tackle gangs on troubled estate

Tough new powers are being given to police this month to deal with gangs who have been harassing neighbours on a Stockwell housing estate.

Lambeth Council and the Lambeth Borough police have designated the area around the Stockwell Gardens Estate a ‘dispersal zone’, giving officers greater powers to move people on.

Residents on the estate have long complained of harassment from up to thirty young men aged around 17 to 30 years old. The group regularly congregates in the area, threatening and intimidating local residents as they try to go home. When they are asked to move on by local residents, they become threatening and abusive. As well as general anti-social behaviour, there have also been reports of drug taking, graffiti, theft and robbery. The gang has also been known to harass businesses along the nearby parade of shops along Clapham Road.

Police regularly patrol the area, and a number of individuals have been issued with Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, but the new zone will give police more powers to tell individuals to leave the area where their presence is causing local residents to feel threatened and intimidated. Those asked to disperse from the area will have their names and addresses taken by officers, with repeat offenders being put forward for further enforcement including an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO). A refusal to obey the instructions of the police officer can lead to up to three months in prison or a fine.

The dispersal zone will run for 6 months from 12 April.

Derrick Anderson, Chair of the Safer Lambeth Partnership, said: “People have a right to go about their lives free from harassment and intimidation and this is an important step in tackling the very real problems residents have had to endure recently. This is a concerted effort between Lambeth Council, the police and Hyde Housing to put an end to the problems this group creates. This sends a clear message that we are not prepared to tolerate anti-social behaviour of any kind.”

Acting Chief Inspector of Neighbourhood Policing in Lambeth, Stuart Bell said:

“Lambeth Borough Police have been working closely with Partners to tackle behaviour that causes fear and affects the confidence of the local residents. Our focus will be to support the law-abiding majority whilst identifying and disrupting the minority who cause harassment and distress. Effective and intelligent use of these powers will be a vital tool in achieving these aims. We want to make it clear that we will not tolerate anti-social behaviour and will do all we can to tackle those areas that have been affected and those individuals concerned”.

Principal Housing Officer for Hyde Southbank Homes, Jonathan Radcliffe, said: “Hyde is committed to creating peaceful, cohesive communities that people are proud to call home. It is not acceptable for residents to be made to feel intimidated by the thoughtless and inconsiderate behaviour of others. We hope that the introduction of the zone will prove an effective tool to tackle anti-social behaviour over the coming months.”

The dispersal zone will cover: Stockwell Gardens Estate, Studley Estate, Stockwell Green, Lingham Street, Jeffreys Road, Larkhall Lane, Binfield Road, Stockwell Park Road and Sidney Road.

Section 30 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 provides police with a power to establish and enforce dispersal zones, where there are reasonable grounds to believe there is persistent anti-social behaviour. Authorisation must be given by the police and the council. Dispersal Zones are not curfews or blanket bans. They do not prevent anyone from entering the designated area, but they address anti-social behaviour through curtailing two or more persons present in that area for up to 24 hours.

Lambeth Council and police have enjoyed a great deal of success in using dispersal zones to tackle anti-social behaviour in specific locations of the borough. The Waterloo Dispersal Zone enabled the council’s Outreach team to temporarily house more than half of all regular rough sleepers found beneath Waterloo Bridge when the zone was introduced last year. A new and larger dispersal zone was introduced in Brixton which brought a huge decrease in anti-social behaviour from drug dealers, drugs users, and aggressive begging. The dispersal zone was expanded following the success of the previous zone introduced to Brixton in November 2007. A dispersal zone was also used to successfully tackle a group of anti-social youths who intimidated local residents and businesses in Clapham’s Queenstown Road area in September last year.

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