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New order will tackle drinking in city park

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

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SCORES of Exeter homes along with a church and a centre for old people will be covered by a new order aimed at freeing a popular park from drunks.

Families and young people have been put off by the presence of habitual drinkers in St Thomas Pleasure Ground.

Now police officers who have been patrolling the area to ensure drinkers are not causing problems have a new weapon.

It is a Section 30 order which, for the next six months, gives police power to order any or all members of a group of two or more to move. If they don't they could be fined £2,500 or face three months in custody – or both.

The map outlining the area covered includes the park side of Wardrew Road, a section of Cowick Street from Wardrew Road to Buller Road, Buller Road to Clarence Road and Clarence Road to Maple Road. It also covers St Thomas Methodist Church and Age UK Exeter.

Nikki Sayers, who lives in Wardrew Road, said: "Most Friday and Saturday nights I get drunks sitting on my wall and as they get more and more drunk so they get louder and louder.

"I called the police when I had 14 of them sitting on my wall at 2am. The police came and told them to move and they didn't.

"I even get their beer glasses left in my garden. It is a terrible shame because Wardrew Road is a lovely place spoilt by this lot. It is good this new order covers us as well as the park."

PC Julie Chapman, beat manager for St Thomas and Cowick, said the long-term aim was to remove drinkers permanently from the pleasure ground.

"I would like to see the park as a no drinking zone," she said.

"We patrol the park every day. It makes people feel safer, especially in summer when there is a paddling pool for youngsters."

The park is already covered by Section 27 dispersal orders – which can only be used if police "perceive" there to be a risk of alcohol-related disorder

Sweeping new powers being proposed at present could replace existing orders, and would cover a "much wider range of problem behaviours", a Government White Paper claims.

Those behind the proposals in the document, Putting Victims First – More Effective Responses to Anti-Social Behaviour, claim the new powers would "reduce bureaucracy" for local authorities and make it easier for communities and businesses to "influence restrictions" in their areas.

Exeter's anti-social behaviour officer, Steve Stewart, believes the plans could be a "positive move". He said: "The advantage to police would be that they would have the powers to disperse people anywhere. If the proposals go through, we will have a new set of powers and it will require a lot of training."

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