TRADERS have called on the police to make better use of tough powers designed to curb antisocial behaviour.
As the Central Parade dispersal zone was renewed last night, business leaders demanded tougher enforcement to stop gangs – especially youths – from terrorising the area.
The six-month order gives police the powers to disperse groups of two or more people if they think their behaviour is causing "nuisance, harassment or distress". This is the third time such powers have been imposed around Central Parade in just over a year, raising questions over their long-term effectiveness.
Ravi Shammugadhas, manager at Favorite Chicken and Ribs, said: "The problem is here still. Two months ago they broke two of my chairs.
"I don't know how effective the dispersal zone is, but it gets some message out."
Ken Burgess, chair of the Central Parade Business Partnership, said the powers were helpful to police.
He said: "We have got to make it safe for people to come up here. This gives police powers that mean they are in a position to deal with it more effectively.
"But they have got to be here to catch them – I think they are quite under-resourced."
At Tropical Essentials supermarket, manager Ram, who would not give his surname, said: "Sometimes they come in a group and try to steal things, or they are underage and ask for cigarettes. And if we say no, they shout and swear at us.
"Yes, it is a good thing – if somebody patrols it. But sometimes if we have a problem in the shop and we call the police, they are here in half an hour and by then the people have gone."
Anyone refusing to move under the powers faces arrest, a fine of up to £2,500 or three months in jail.
New Addington councillor Tony Pearson said the application to the Safer Croydon Board for the new zone was made based on police evidence.
He said: "Dispersal zones are good but only as good as the enforcement, and that is where extra officers will come in."