Published: 15:32, 08 September 2017
The introduction of new measures aimed at ridding a town centre of antisocial behaviour has been heralded as “a victory for the quiet majority”.
Last night cabinet members at Dartford council approved a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO), which will crackdown on street drinking, drug taking, and violence.
First put forward in January, the proposal has since gained overwhelming support from locals through a public consultation, with almost 90% of respondents backing it.
Public drunkenness, the use of legal highs, urinating, and cars playing loud music were all cited in the responses, with the Westgate Car Park and the area around Central Park and the war memorial - already protected by a similar order set to expire next month - identified as hot spots for such behaviour.
Among the powers council and police officers will be given are the ability to confiscate alcohol, legal highs, and clamp down on antisocial vehicle use such as racing and sounding horns between 8pm and 6am.
Offenders face a fixed penalty notice of £100, reduced to £50 if paid within 10 days, and court appearances are also possible.
Council leader Cllr Jeremy Kite (Con) was unapologetic in his condemnation of those involved and is confident that the order will make the town centre a nicer place to be.
“We don’t want to see people urinating in the park and stuffing noxious substances up their nose,” he said.
“It’s ridiculous and we have a right as proper, decent people, families, and shoppers that the town centre is a place for decent human behaviour.
“People should not have the right to behave in a way that upsets other people.
“It should be that for people who want to cause trouble, Dartford is not seen a place they want to go.
“This is a victory for the quiet majority who deserve to have their voices heard.”
Dartford Labour has expressed concerns over the scope of the order and whether the council’s existing community safety unit and police resources are sufficient to enforce it.
It has been confirmed that controversial litter enforcement firm Kingdom — contracted by the council to issue fines for littering and dog fouling — will not be involved in the enforcement of the PSPO.
But Cllr Kite said he was confident in the experience and talent of the council’s enforcement team, as well as the police, with Commissioner Matthew Scott having lent his backing.
“This order does need to be based on historic evidence, rather than where we might have trouble in the future,” he added.
“There is a degree of concern about housing growth and people moving in, but our policy is to put housing in places where there is already an urban environment.
“I think that as people move into these places like the old Glaxo site and Lowfield Street, the nighttime economy will become increasingly similar to the daytime economy.
“What I would say is that it would be disappointing if we had to expand it.
“Criminals are scared of decency and good people — they don’t like being around busy places.”
The leader admitted that the PSPO had been a long time coming, partly so that the council could consider the successes and failures of similar orders in other areas.
Gravesham council targeted rough sleepers as part of its PSPO last summer, which Cllr Kite said would be beyond the remit of the one in Dartford.
The Dartford PSPO will be introduced so long as it is not challenged at the High Court within six weeks.
Opposition doubts council's approach to cutting crime
Dartford Labour leader Cllr Jonathon Hawkes said the number of people who told the consultation they felt unsafe walking through the town centre at night showed additional resources were needed.
“The Conservatives in Dartford took the wrong decisions when they voted to cut their own budget for CCTV and scrapped the Grabbacab scheme, which helped get people home from the town centre quickly once the pubs and clubs shut,” he said.
“It’s no wonder local people are concerned about crime when they see these cuts being passed by the Tories.
“A Labour council would be lobbying the government and the Police and Crime Commissioner for the extra police resources we need as well as taking measures to create a more family friendly environment in Dartford town centre in the evenings.
“Kent Police should receive the funding they need to help keep Dartford safe, but this is another example of the impact of the £70m of cuts made to the Kent Police budget since 2012.”
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