I wrote the below to Kevin Wilkins (County Councillor and Police Authority member with a specialisation in Cambridge City) and Olive Main, Independent Member of the Police Authority in October 2007:
In Cambridge dispersal zones are in my view used in areas they shouldn’t be. Do we really need to use new laws to deal with drug dealing in public toilets – surely that, and many of the other things that the police use as justifications for these orders were illegal well before the AntiSocial Behaviour Act.
I think these orders are draconian, and negatively affect the relationship between the public and the state / police.
I don’t like the way that in Cambridge Zones are renewed repeatedly and their boundaries re-drawn. There does not appear to be the same scrutiny by the council of renewed or expanded zones as new zones. Perhaps it would be better for public and democratic accountability if all renewals and changes were treated as new zones?
Looking at if the police are using their powers (in partnership with the councils) to designate zones where the police and PCSOs have the power to disperse people is something that I think the Police Authority could be doing. You could look at cases where orders are being repeatedly renewed, and where they have grown to encompass vast swathes of the city – I don’t think this appropriate and in the spirit of the Anti Social Behaviour Act.
Other Police Authorities have commented on the use of dispersal zones in their force areas but apparently not Cambridgeshire.
Update I have made my views known to the City Council leader, Cllr Nimmo-Smith who approves the Dispersal Zones in the City on behalf of the Council, I have asked him to ensure his decisions are properly scrutinised by councillors.