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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 October 2007, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
Dispersal orders 'displace crime'
A group of young people
Young people can be moved on after 2100 in certain areas
Police dispersal powers which aim to tackle anti-social behaviour merely displace crime to neighbouring areas, a report has suggested.

Researchers at the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies in Leeds said dispersal orders simply acted as a "sticking plaster" for more serious problems.

More than 1,000 zones where such powers can be used have been established in England, Wales and Scotland since 2004.

Ministers said dispersals were only part of their response to youth crime.

Curfews

Under powers contained in the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 brought in three years ago, police are able to remove anyone under the age of 16 in specially-designated areas, known as dispersal zones, after nine o'clock at night.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the aim was to stop groups of youths gathering and causing trouble.

The powers merely put a sticking plaster over local problems of order and invariably fail to address the wider causes of perceived anti-social behaviour
Professor Adam Crawford
Centre for Criminal Justice Studies

But the report by the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies at the University of Leeds found that although the dispersal zones provided short-term relief for residents - in one area crime fell 39% - the problems were simply shifted elsewhere.

Its research, which focused on Leeds and Sheffield, found that in one area which neighboured a dispersal zone, crime rose by almost 150%.

The type of offence most commonly displaced was criminal damage - by up to 83%, according to the study.

One of the report's authors, Professor Adam Crawford, said: "Unless dispersal orders are part of a wider, multi-agency strategy to provide alternative activities and venues for young people, the powers merely put a sticking plaster over local problems of order and invariably fail to address the wider causes of perceived anti-social behaviour."

Relations 'harmed'

The report warned against extending dispersal powers and said that if dispersal zones were enforced without sensitivity or clear explanation, they could damage relations with young people and provoke defiance.

In one area, more than half of those asked said that the order had a negative impact on their feelings towards the police.

"Dispersal orders convey stark messages about the status of young people and the way they are regarded by adults," said Professor Crawford.

"They can reinforce a view of young people as a risk to others, obscuring the extent to which they are understood as at risk themselves."

They are only one of a wide range of tools and powers the government has made available to police and local authorities
Home Office

With the agreement of a local authority, police can designate an area as a dispersal zone for up to six months in England and Wales or three months in Scotland.

A Home Office spokesman said dispersal orders were "not intended to be used in isolation" but formed "part of an integrated response to tackling crime and disorder and anti-social behaviour in local areas".

"They are only one of a wide range of tools and powers the government has made available to police and local authorities, which include written warnings, home visits, acceptable behaviour contracts, parenting order and premises closures," he said.

He added that the government's approach had helped drive down perceptions of anti-social behaviour by 4% from 21% in 2002-03 to 17% in 2005-06.

SEE ALSO
Curfews 'demonise young people'
20 Jul 05 |  London
Blair pledges new 'yob' crackdown
12 May 05 |  UK Politics
Blunkett hails anti-nuisance law
20 Jan 04 |  UK Politics

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