Hooligan battle steps up

IPSWICH'S first dispersal order has now been running in the Queen's Way and Reynolds Road areas for more than two weeks. Crime reporter MARK BULSTRODE spent a night on patrol with the police to see how it is being enforced.

IPSWICH'S first dispersal order has now been running in the Queen's Way and Reynolds Road areas for more than two weeks. Crime reporter MARK BULSTRODE spent a night on patrol with the police to see how it is being enforced.

NEVER sure what is waiting for them around the next corner, police officers pounding the south east Ipswich beat have learned to expect the unexpected.

Whether it be a barrage of abuse, a menacing glare or an outburst of offensive gestures, they have been subjected to it all.

On one occasion, when their backs were turned, eggs have even been hurled in their direction.

It is this type of behaviour, which has also been directed at residents and traders, that has prompted Ipswich's first dispersal order.

It covers the Queen's Way and Reynolds Road shopping parades and has seen seven arrests since its introduction – six of which were in the first week.

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Rowdy gangs have been cleared from street corners, unaccompanied youngsters under the age of 16 taken home if seen out after 9pm and a general air of intimidation lightened.

It is a trend – through their regular tours of the area as part of Operation Loftus – that Suffolk police are determined to extend.

My patrol, on Friday, began at 6pm with a briefing at Ipswich police station, attended by the six constables on duty that night.

By 7pm, we had arrived in Reynolds Road and already dropped off two pairs of officers nearby.

We soon came across a group of around ten youngsters, mostly male and wearing baseball hats and/or hooded tops, congregating near to the Spar shop.

As is now common practise in these situations, an officer in the rear of the van began filming the group from inside.

"It makes them think about what they're doing," he said.

But the sight of the camera also provokes other reactions – including jeering, one-fingered gesturing and general bravado.

For the police, it is simple tactic that serves a dual purpose. It can deter the youngsters from committing a crime, while also providing potential evidence should an offence be committed later in the evening.

The van then spins round and drives along the other side of road, once again with an officer filming as we pass.

This time, we come across a group of about five youths, most of whom are known to the police, outside a BT phone kiosk.

One of the group, a male who looks no older than 16, shouts out: "Put that camera away or I'll have it off you and sell it."

Used to such comments, the police van then moves on to Queen's Way, where another two officers are dropped off.

Here there is hardly a soul to be seen, testament that moves to cut disorder in the area are succeeding.

The van, which can clock up dozens of miles in one night, then continues its journey, eventually emerging along Landseer Road.

We find another group of males, who are routinely filmed as the van slowly passes them. This provokes the most stinging response of the night.

Jibes of "paedophile" and "rapist" are hurled towards those inside by one of the group, standing defiantly with his arms wide apart. The 16-year-old boy was himself arrested the previous week for breaching a dispersal order.

We then return to Reynolds Road to find a 16-year-old, who had been acting in a disorderly fashion, has been dispersed from the area.

With things going relatively smoothly, the order would not need to be enforced again for another three hours.

This time, five "nuisance value" youths, causing a disturbance in the Reynolds Road parade of shops were told to move on, at about 10.30pm.

After a few shrugs of the shoulder and groans, they comply with the order and leave the area.

With steady rain now falling, nature's own dispersal order, it had proved to be a quiet night overall.

TRADERS, residents and the police today hailed the success of Ipswich's first dispersal order.

Now in its third week of operation, the move has seen the Queen's Way and Reynolds Road shopping parades declared trouble-free zones between 9pm and 6am each day.

A number of gangs have already been dispersed under the powers, with seven people arrested for breaching the order.

But only one person has been arrested in past week, a statistic that has delighted inspector Dave Dring, of Suffolk police.

He said: "We've successfully used the dispersal order and I'm pleased about how it's going.

"Queen's Way has been exceptionally good. The community in the area ought to be praised because they haven't presented us with any difficulties at all.

"We've had to spend a bit more time in Reynolds Road, although the majority of individuals spoken to have adhered to the order.

"There are only a very small minority who are blatantly testing the boundaries, but we think the message is getting through."

Insp Dring warned the tactic, part of the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003, will continue to be enforced "24 hours a day, seven days a week".

It is part of a range of moves designed to improve the quality of life in the area. This will eventually see the introduction of mobile closed circuit television cameras and various activities designed to keep youngsters in the area occupied.

Insp Dring said the order is continually being reviewed and could be extended to avoid simply moving on the problem.

He said: "Part of the scrutinising of the success of the order will be evaluate the affect it is having on crime in the surrounding areas."

Jim Forosh, who runs a video shop, in Queen's Way, supported the tactics, which have already started to improve his trade.

He said: "I've seen some old faces coming back and some new customers coming in. It's been very quiet up here for the last three weeks and whatever steps have been taken have been beneficial for the parade."

Andrew Margetts, owner of AM Carpets, in Queen's Way, agreed: "The shopping parade is now what you'd expect it to be – quiet, where people can go about their everyday business and where trouble is virtually non-existent.

"The difference between now and six weeks ago is just astounding. The police presence has helped no end and the atmosphere has generally improved."

Osman Bozday, manager of Star Grill, in Reynolds Road, painted a similar picture in his parade.

He said: "It's definitely better for business now the dispersal order is in place.

"We receive family customers now. Before the kids were hanging around and the families were too scared to come in. Now, with the police, everything has been fine. I hope they stay for longer than six months because they're really making a difference."

Another Reynolds Road trader, who declined to be named, said: "I think it has got better up here because as soon as these groups see the police, they move on.

"The youngsters still taunt the police though. They've got no respect whatsoever."

One Reynolds Road resident, who declined to be named, said part of the problem has been moved on to her doorstep.

She said: "The police have moved the kids away from the shops but now they're nearer my house.

"I know the traders had problems before but some of them keep my kids up at night now."

Another resident, of Morland Road, said: "Things have definitely improved. I went to the shops at about 8pm the other night and there were three policemen there.

"It does make you feel safer because there were no gangs around whatsoever. I don't know how the police put up with the gangs sometimes but they're doing a good job."

A Queen's Way resident added: "There's no kids going about smashing windows so the order must be working."

What do you think of the dispersal order? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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