Dispersal order covering all Southsea Common brought in as tensions boil over into fights

POLICE have imposed a dispersal order covering Southsea Common and the Hot Walls in a bid to drive back the tide of ‘appalling’ anti-social behaviour.

Wednesday, 24th June 2020, 4:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 4:47 pm

It comes after officers were met with a large crowd when they were called to young people fighting at the popular beauty spot last night.

A 17-year-old boy was arrested after being suspected to have an offensive weapon and cannabis, and remains in custody.

It is just one of the latest incidents as authorities grapple with the problem of young people not in school or college due to the lockdown having few opportunities for recreation.

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Police attended a disturbance on Southsea Common on June 23 2020 where a 17-year-old boy was arrested. Picture: Gethin Jones

Now police patrols are set to be boosted at Southsea Common and the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth in a bid to deter anti-social behaviour.

A large dispersal order running from midday Wednesday to midday Friday is in place to deter unruly yobs.

It stretches along the coastline from Old Portsmouth to Eastney, and covers swathes of streets in between.

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Hampshire police have imposed a dispersal order in the south of Portsmouth covering the Hot Walls in Old Portsmouth and Southsea Common. Picture: Portsmouth police

Councillor Lee Hunt, responsible for community safety, said there had been ‘appalling’ behaviour.

He said: ‘We know that and are working very hard to find more and better things for young people to do to arrest the outburst of anti-social behaviour and fighting.’

Just last week the specialist safeguarding camera team, CCTV units deployed to problem areas, were involved in 103 requests to help police ‘identify people misbehaving,' Cllr Hunt said.

Gethin Jones, a reformed prisoner who runs Unlocking Potential, captured Tuesday evening’s incident on video near his home.

Police attended a disturbance on Southsea Common on June 23 2020 where a 17-year-old boy was arrested. Picture: Gethin Jones

He told The News: ‘What I’m seeing at the moment is there's no support or intervention for young people.

‘We've had people locked down for a long time, no college and school, no youth provisions, which means they're completely at a loss.

‘Every morning (the common) is being cleared up, they’re sniffing nitrous oxide.

‘What we’re not seeing is any intervention.’

He added: ‘Could these youth workers be on the common from midday to engage?’

‘It keeps getting to a boiling point and police are getting called, kids are getting arrested.’

Recent incidents include fights, two women prosecuted over an attack, and the desecration of Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Video posted to Snapchat on Saturday showed police breaking up fights between young people, only for more to start.

Acting Inspector Darren Ali said: ‘We know that these areas are also used by families, local residents and people visiting Portsmouth during the good weather. It is paramount that these areas are kept safe for people to enjoy.

‘We know that the groups that have been congregating in these areas are mainly young people and therefore we would ask parents and guardians to consider the whereabouts of their own children and whether they are involved in such ASB, either knowingly or unwittingly.’

Insp Ali has called on parents and guardians to ensure their children are not getting involved in the trouble.

Anyone in the wide-reaching dispersal order can be moved on if police believe they’re showing bad behaviour.

Refusing to do so is a criminal offence.

Insp Ali added: ‘Today, we our adding further dedicated patrols around Southsea Common in order to reduce anti-social behaviour and related crime.

‘We are going to continue these patrols over the coming days and increase our presence in order to deter groups from congregating and prevent further disorder.’

Five youth clubs are set to be re-opened by Portsmouth City Council in a bid to offer youngsters things to do.

Earlier this month Councillor Rob Wood, who previously oversaw social care services at Portsmouth City Council, warned there was a ‘bad behaviour’ spreading across the city that was ‘too great’ to stop.

Deputy leader Steve Pitt said: ‘We want all of our residents and visitors to be able to enjoy public spaces in the city.

‘Our community wardens have been carrying out regular patrols on Southsea Common regarding a wide range of issues, from littering to reports of anti-social behaviour.

‘They escalate issues requiring police attention to the police and will support them where appropriate.’

Council and police, together with other agencies, are drawing up a ‘coordinated programme of support’ to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour.

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