Early meeting this morning with my colleagues Andy Scott and David Lyonette as we toured anti-social behaviour hot-spots with the Police and representatives from the Council's ASB team and the Fire Service.
Previously, Andy had distributed street surgery notices around the Nightingale Avenue and Belford Gardens areas, so it was a chance for everyone to learn first hand from residents how the Dispersal Order (made for an initial three months) is working.
The Order, which came into effect on 27 October, is the town's first. It's in direct response to the unacceptable levels of harrassment and ASB which local people have had to endure over the last few years, both in Nightingale Avenue and around the now-demolished Springfield Primary School.
Statistics show that since April 2005 alone, the Police were called out 210 times, and the Council's wardens on 131 occasions. As a ward councillor, I know that represents a fraction of the incidents which have taken place, as local people became despairing of calling the Police, feeling that their calls went unanswered.
The Dispersal Order represents a real breakthrough, and it appears to be working. Police and Community Support Officers have the power to break up unruly gangs, and troublemakers can be excluded from the area.
We were really pleased to learn that rather than simply rely on the Order, all the agencies will work in key areas around the ward in a concerted fashion at the end of November. This could include getting rid of grafitti, working with young people identifying activities they would like to take up, and simply reassuring residents that their concerns are being addressed.
We'll be asking local people what they think, so the programme is best tailored to meet residents' needs.