POLICE have been granted new powers to move groups and battle anti-social behaviour around Coventry city centre.
Coventry City Council approved a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO) at a cabinet meeting yesterday (June 11) after councillors unanimously backed plans.
It comes after a public consultation revealed widespread public support for the measure among more than 100 people who responded.
Senior police figures say the order gives officers power to move on any groups who they believe are an anti-social behaviour or a crime risk.
It covers the whole city centre and low-income, crime-ridden areas around St Michaels ward such as Hillfields and parts of Foleshill.
It will mean anyone who refuses to move on will be issued a £100 fine – reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.
If the fine is not paid, it is the council’s policy to prosecute the offender, where the maximum fine is currently £1,000.
There has been a 20 per cent increase in violent crime across Coventry in the last 12 months – with a spike in violence recently in some locations around and on the edge of the city centre.
Despite this, campaigner Richard Heneghan said: “PSPOs are not the answer. They have been proven time and time again to be divisive and do not achieve the publicised objective.
“In areas of poverty, how on earth does a financial penalty fix anything?
“It has long been evidenced that it simply serves to drive a bigger wedge between the city’s most vulnerable people and the authorities penalising them.
“Education and community engagement are proven fixes – fines just compound an already serious problem.
“The city council is desperate to ‘clean-up’ before 2021. This isn’t the way.”
West Midlands Police and the council believe the order will assist police in tackling anti-social behaviour, drug use, drug dealing and exploitation of young people, both criminally and sexually.
They say it will also reduce serious and violent crime, after 600 incidents in the city last year – including 100 knife crime incidents in St Michaels ward alone.
Deputy leader of the council Abdul Khan said: “We have overwhelming support for the order which is encouraging. Police do have powers to tackle issues that are listed in the PSPO but these are overly bureaucratic.
“The order will help the police to act more quickly.”
Superintendent for Neighbourhood Policing Phil Healey, said: “There are clear examples of drug use and drug dealing, and exploitation of young people and an increase in violence in some pockets. The order will help us to police the city centre and nearby areas.”
The order will be in place for three years.