editorial

Dispersal orders? Join the debate

Across England & Wales, one of the increasing problems is one that has always been there, as the youths generation recycles and more children are allowed to meet up with their friends after school and in the holidays they simply have nothing to do, expect to hang about on street corners.

It’s a headache for the police because some people see kicking a football off a wall or carrying on very loudly as a huge problem whereas on the other scale drinking, fighting, criminal damage as a problem.

While being expected to respond to genuine emergencies the police often more than ever have to deal with today’s youth. Sometimes a pleasure often a headache.

What is a dispersal order?

In a nutshell, a dispersal order simply allows a constable or a PCSO to request under law one or more people to leave an area if a clear dispersal zone is in place.

it allows police the power in designated areas to disperse groups of one or more where their presence or behaviour has resulted or is likely to result, in a member of the public being harassed, intimidated, alarmed or distressed.

They are controversial powers due to the police officer attending and issuing the dispersals orders own discretion and the rights that an individual to be within that area.

Legal wording

Police Officers of the rank of inspector may authorise the use in a specified locality, during a specified period of not more than 48 hours, of the powers given by section 35. issue a dispersal order if they believe that the use of those powers in the locality during that period may be necessary for the purpose of removing or reducing the likelihood of causing members of the public within the area to be harassed, alarmed or distressed or crime or disorder has occurred. 

Dispersal order use? 

Dispersal orders are a very tactical tool within the policing toolkit, they are used in a number of situations to address social issues, But the police mostly use them to tackle the increase in anti-social behaviour.

To put an order in place firstly the police must have evidence that there is a need for such an order but there is no longer a need to consult with local authorities, agencies or community groups.

But such an order must be appropriate, proportionate and pre-planned as a direct response to evidenced and documented persistent problems.

But they can only be used as a short-term fix providing the police and local residents or businesses a short window of time of opportunity to develop a holistic and long-term problem-solving response. During the period of the notice, they must work to fix the problem long term.

Not only can putting a dispersal order in place create an increased demand on policing they can create a false sense of policing priority within an area, they can also be used to antagonise, create anger and criminality within youths and ensuring they are felt alienated from the rest of the community being unable to visit popular places and events resulting in the youth as a whole being unfairly stigmatised for just using a public place.

They also create further problems away from the community being dispersed, they will continue to meet within the streets away from the orders creating a displacement impact, shifting the problem to other areas which will only last the duration of the order, soon after the order ends the youths will be back.

Thus creating a message that the police are ineffective at combating anti-social behaviour further creating anger within the local communities that the police are powerless and unable to combat anti-social behaviour.

Therefore dispersal orders only act as a sticky plaster over a local policing issue, they do not create any long-term solutions or positive impacts on the community because unless work is done to fix the root cause nothing will change.

We asked @PoliceHour followers! 

We asked our twitter follower for views on dispersal orders and if they are effective in combating anti-social behaviour.

A serving police officer who does not wish to be named within the Met Police told police hour “I’d have to disagree. despite having the powers to disperse people you first need the officers on the streets to do that and simply there just aren’t enough of us to effectively enforce them”

Meanwhile Career Special responded yes they work. To improve them is like to see an S60 type stop and search power attached to S34 orders, for a limited time and location on Insp authorisation, constables are able to search almost randomly. Would really deter naughty behaviour in known local hotspots.

Sammi Said “Shame we don’t have good old-fashioned policing. Drag the buggers home by the ear. It didn’t hurt previous generations.”

Sheelagh Brownlee told Police Hour “It helps them that are have to put up with it in that area but they just move on to harass others.”

https://twitter.com/sheelaghb18/status/1026533916969185280

Linda Mullin told Police Hour “yes they help an awful lot, however, it must take up a lot of resources and I believe they are already stretched enough.”

https://twitter.com/linda_mullin/status/1026524187584815105

While Angela Taylor told Police Hour it “pushes it elsewhere but gives people a break. Giving everyone an equal share of the ‘scrotes’.

Across the UK senior Police officers are using dispersal orders more and more but what are those senior officers doing while dispersal orders are in place to prevent these issues from happening again, Rather than simply moving the issues across several communities.

Criminalising youths 

Are we really criminalising youths who are out on the streets deemed to be causing an annoyance, in their own eyes they are simply out having fun that causes annoyance to local people by kicking footballs and laughing and carrying on.

Or do we target the real issue the youths that hide out of public spaces on beeches, parks and wasteland to drink?

When does behaviour become anti-social?

At what point does something become anti-social and at what point does a constable of the law consider stepping in. Surely it’s just the youth of today having fun like we did? Well not all of us chucked stones at cars and drank on the streets.

Maybe that’s because we had places to hang out such as youth groups, and inexpensive after-school clubs.

Getting back to dispersal orders, once a notice has been issued that person is not allowed to return to the area for 48 hours if they do they face arrest.

Lack of Officers?

Here is a serious question when was the last time you spotted a police officer? I recently made it all the way from the North East to Devon all be it by plane, not to see a single police officer. I actually cannot remember the last time I spotted the police. But I have heard of instances where people have reported crime and incidents and the police simply have not turned out.

Even myself recently, I reported a serious concern for someone’s mental health, they had been walking down a public busy street, in the rain with no shoes, coat and a dog leader round her neck, she made serious threats to members of the public. Cleveland Police took the details and agreed to attend on the Monday for CCTV. Monday never came and 4 or 5 weeks later we are still waiting.

Do we have enough for dispersal orders?

Anyways back to dispersal orders and the main question are they being increasingly used because we simply do not have enough officers on the front line? Are police forces pretending they are in control by issuing a dispersal order? is there even enough justification to issue them in the first place?

Within many towns and cities across the United Kingdom, anti-social behaviour is growing to an uncontrollable level and the police must be seen to be doing something about it.

Powerless Cops

The police are powerless and sick to death of dealing with the increasing problem. Cops are facing abuse daily from kids who know the cops are powerless to do anything, they know they are out numbered the decreasing amount of cops, but the cops on the groundwork hard to keep things going and keep us safe they even know that anti-social behaviour is no longer a policing priority due to the fact there are simply only enough police officers to respond to life and death emergency situations.

Today’s youth, all be it not all of them there are many more good eggs that will never face the wrong side of the law. but there are these youths and teens that head out bored due to the lack of youth clubs to cause trouble.

Large groups of youths vs one or two cops

They gather in large groups when we say, large groups, we mean literally  40 to 50 of the safety in numbers they say. They drink and walk around in huge groups. Once they are pleasantly drunk and often drugged they fight, cause criminal damage and the cops do nothing.

Recently within the Cleveland Police Area, I witnessed a large group of youths who had broken into the back of a shop, damaged a rental car smashed there way into a parked car, when I say smashed I mean smashed all of the windows (See the image above) the police arrived and took abuse, they stood about in attempts to engage with the youths they did not take any details and did not record any details of the offences. Lack of evidence. But they were offered to collect CCTV evidence showing the offenders smashing up the car and they simply did not show up to collect the footage.

When the police respond there will only be one or two officers and the cops are literally powerless, they are outnumbered and know as soon as they put their hands on any one of those youths the situation is going to be out of control.

Police Officers often drive past these groups unless serious offences are taking place because cops don’t want to have to get hands-on with lippy teenagers full of drink and drugs, because as soon as they do there will be trouble.

So the introduction of the increased use of an old tool in the box dispersal orders, a PR Stunt to reassure the public that the police are taking the increased calls and demand for anti-social behaviour seriously.

Are Dispersal orders successful?

This is where we have a couple of compounding issues on the success rate, Within a number of forces the problem is simply just rotated around a number of estates and areas, cops move the problem on to other areas to reassure the public in the current problem area that they are in control they are doing something about it, so the issue blights another area of town.

Therefore increasing and moving anti-social behaviour to another estate, until that time comes within a week that they can return back to the location of the current dispersal order.

Problem two comes back to the main issue that when anti-social behaviour happens within a dispersal zone, cops don’t really use the power and continue there patrol despite facing torrents of abuse because as soon as they place their hands on one youth they have 49 others to contend with.

Therefore simply sticking a plaster over anti-social behaviour and not tackling the root cause. There is not a simple solution to anti-social behaviour, We must accept that officer numbers won’t return to how they used to be.

If the Government think that the situation we find ourselves in today is acceptable and working the reality is we are not going to get the increased officers to walk the beat.

If you would like to add your view as a balanced argument to be considered for inclusion within this content, about the success rates or the different ways in which they are used that we have not covered or fairly represented please tweet us @PoliceHour

Our cops are working hard on the ground, but numbers are decreasing meaning the way they police has to change.

policing is changing.

Let us know your views by tweeting @PoliceHour We'll feature the best tweets within the article.

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