Southend Council has been considering whether to implement a couple of “Designated Public Protection Orders” (DPPO) -Alcohol exclusion zones to you and me.
Both are over in the East of the town – Cluny Square and Churchill Gardens. Residents and members of the public have asked for action to be taken, to stop the antisocial behaviour (ASB) that occurs there.
Tony Cox (Cabinet member for, amongst other things, Public Protection) takes the lead at looking at things like this. The administration looked at the figures (for ASB) and said that there is not enough evidence that there is alcohol related antisocial behaviour in the area to warrant the use of a DPPO. Fair enough?
No, instead of leaving it like that, Tony decided that the matter should be kept open for 12 months to review it again to see if the evidence had changed (and allow time for more evidence to be collated) and therefore a DPPO should be made.
When I quizzed Tony on this at a meeting to scrutinise his decisions I asked him if he thought he had any option apart from the one he had taken. Yes, he could have just decided that a DPPO shouldn’t have been made and close the matter, that was the only other option.
Quite reasonable? Not according to Martin Terry his other party colleagues and the Labour group.
They all decided to go for a cheap bit of scaremongery. According to Cllr Terry if one child gets affected by antisocial behaviour in Cluny Square it is too many (really? Obviously the administration thinks it is fine?!), therefore just in case this happens there should be a DPPO in place. Well hold on a minute, shouldn’t every household with children in it have a DPPO? No of course not.
You will always get antisocial, loutish, drunken behaviour in public places. But to suggest that the council and the police are unable to do anything about it unless a DPPO is in place is at best disingenuous. Remember that a DPPO allows a Police Officer to prevent you from drinking alcohol in an area, take it from you and arrest you if you do not comply – that’s it.
Now (to the best of my knowledge) unlike all of those who spoke on the matter on Thursday, I have firsthand experience of dealing with anti-social behaviour and drunks from when I was in the Met Police.
When I turned up to see someone scaring a child, someone peeing up against a house/wall or causing a disturbance (whether through alcohol or not), clearly the first thing I did when I arrived was get my map out and work out whether the area I was in was in or outside of a DPPO – erm I think not!!! If the person was being drunk and disorderly I arrested them. If they were smashing the place up I arrested them. If they were disturbing a mum & child or a pensioner waiting at a bus stop I arrested them!
So if someone is drunk and causing a nuisance in Cluny Square or Churchill Gardens can they be arrested? Yes they can.
Am I against DPPOs? No I am not, but only when there is evidence that there is a large amount of alcohol related problems. I believe that people like you and me should have the right to have a picnic with a glass of wine or a can of beer in Blenheim Park, Cluny Square, Churchill Gardens or any park in this town. And this does NOT stop the police from doing their job of keeping us safe!
If there are ongoing alcohol or antisocial behaviour issues anywhere in Blenheim Park or the rest of the town: 1, let me know 2, call the police to ensure that a record made in case action needs to be taken. And Cllr Terry… It really isn’t that difficult to call the police to report matters, even you could do it… you only need to dial 101 (or 999 in an emergency) and you’ll be straight through!