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Dispersal order introduced in Ashford town centre as nuisance teenagers kicked out by police

By Georgia Woolf

Nuisance teenagers were ordered out of a town centre when police launched a new crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

Officers introduced a dispersal order in Ashford following reports of alcohol-related offences.

It was launched at 7pm on Friday and ran for 48 hours until Sunday evening.

The dispersal order covered the town centre
The dispersal order covered the town centre

The order covered the town centre but also stretched to Victoria Park, the Designer Outlet and Ashford International station.

Over the weekend, six people - all aged between 13 and 16 - were told to leave the town centre.

Inspector Jason Atkinson said the order was brought in following reports of “drink-related anti-social behaviour (ASB)”.

A map of the dispersal zone
A map of the dispersal zone

“It meant our officers and police community support officers had additional powers to deal with groups of people causing a nuisance and direct them to leave the area and not return for a stated period of time,” he said.

“It is an offence to fail to leave an area when directed, without reasonable excuse, on the basis the suspect’s behaviour has contributed, or is likely to contribute to the public being harassed, alarmed or distressed.

“With the warmer evenings approaching, we see a rise in ASB in the town.

Victoria Park was included in the dispersal order
Victoria Park was included in the dispersal order

“Orders like this help us tackle this head on and we work with other organisations to ensure anyone who needs help is signposted to the appropriate agencies.

“Anti-social behaviour is usually carried out by a minority but it can have a big impact on the community.

“It is important residents and businesses continue to report their concerns to us so that we can work with the district council to use our powers under this legislation.”

Shelley Ashton from YMCA
Shelley Ashton from YMCA

While officers were on patrol at the weekend, a 54-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of assault and theft.

She has been released pending further investigation.

KentOnline asked business owners who have experienced ASB in the town centre for their thoughts on the Section 34 order.

Owners of The Little Teapot cafe in Park Mall, Jacqui and Russell Geen - who have encountered eight ASB incidents since opening in Park Mall three years ago - say it will only shift the problem elsewhere.

Jacqui Geen from The Little Teapot
Jacqui Geen from The Little Teapot

Mrs Geen said: “It doesn’t work because teenagers will move on and come back an hour later.

“I don’t think they are scared of the ban, it doesn’t even bother them.

“We have seen people who are banned from the shopping centre at the moment just walk back in.

“It’s more of a concern because it is intimidating for our customers.

“The younger generation doesn't seem to be as concerned about being told off by the police.

“It’s a little bit of a trophy for them.”

Shelly Ashton, assistant manager at YMCA in Park Mall, welcomed the order.

She said: “It’s most definitely a good idea as it is extremely unpleasant for staff and customers.

“We see people riding bikes through the town centre.

"We get a lot of elderly people here and people that have problems with their mobility - it’s an accident waiting to happen.

“It’s not just teenagers, you also see adults misbehaving and shouting too.”

It is not yet known when the next dispersal order - which applies to anyone aged 10 and above - will be introduced.

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