Order cracking down on bad behaviour in Exeter city centre could be changed as levels of antisocial antics ‘remain high’

A consultation has been launched over changes to rules cracking down on antisocial antics in Exeter – as levels of city centre bad behaviour remain ‘relatively high’.

Council chiefs want to amend a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) which outlaws certain activities.

It was first introduced in June 2017 for areas including Fore Street, the High Street and Sidwell Street.

The PSPO applies to everyone, but currently only groups of two or more people can be dispersed, writes Local Democracy Reporter Ollie Heptinstall.

Anyone breaching the order by consuming alcohol or committing antisocial behaviour can be moved on and could face a fine of up to £1,000 if they return.

The PSPO could now be changed so individual troublemakers can be targeted.

Offenders would also be stopped from returning to the area in question for 24 hours, instead of six hours.

A report to the November meeting of Exeter City Council’s executive said: “It is clear that whilst the PSPO has had an impact since its introduction in 2017, the prevalence of persistent and problematic antisocial behaviour continues to be relatively high in the area of the order.

“Data from police logs and from the Exeter Business Against Crime Partnership provides evidence that antisocial behaviour complaints are of such a volume that they continue to have or are likely to have a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.

“These antisocial activities are continuing at a level that is unreasonable and justifies the continuing restrictions of the order.”

The council is seeking views on changing the order so that individuals who are behaving antisocially can be forced to leave an area.

The report added: “Over the last 18 months, it has become increasingly apparent that there has been a significant increase in individuals acting in such a way that has caused or is likely to cause a member of public to suffer harassment, alarm or distress by that behaviour.

“However, authorised officers have been hampered in using the dispersal powers contained within…[the]current order because the individual is not acting in a group.

“It is felt that amending the current order to enable authorised officers to use dispersal tools on individuals breaching [the rule], would be an effective tool in tackling antisocial behaviour.”

The consultation is also seeking views on varying the maximum time that a dispersal may last from six hours to 24 hours.

On the current time limit, the report said: “Whilst this has proved an effective time period for some cases, there have been a significant number of cases where six hours has unfortunately not been effective and subsequent breaches have occurred.”

PSPOs are one of the tools available under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Crimes under the act include ignoring police requests to stop drinking alcohol or illegal drugs in public, aggressive begging, urinating in a public place and behaving in an antisocial manner.

The consultation runs until 31 December. To take part, email community.safety@exeter.gov.uk.

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