Southwark Police have introduced a dispersal zone in the area around the Cantium Retail Park in Old Kent Road in response to concerns about the regular gatherings of men looking for work.
Police officers say that residents, traders and customers have reported their anxieties about the large number of people congregating daily in the car parks of the stores at the Cantium Retail Park – including B&Q and Halfords – in the Old Kent Road. People felt intimidated by being approached by large groups of people who were looking for work. There was an increase in the amount of litter and number of people urinating in public areas.
On Wednesday the Livesey ward Safer Neighbourhood team worked with the retailers, the UK Border Agency and the MPS Communities Together team on an operation to engage with the people, mostly men, who group in the car parks looking for work.
The officers advised the men that a Dispersal Zone has been introudced which give them powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to move people on who are in groups in this particular area. There were no arrests and by mid-afternoon the area was clear.
"We are here dealing with an issue which has, for a long time, been a source of distress for many people," says Sgt Jon Sweatman who leads the Livesey Ward team.
"This is obviously an ongoing engagement and education operation and we are speaking to the people who come here looking for work and advise them that their actions may intimidate regular users of the car parks.
"We have an interpreter with us in case there are any language and communication issues. At this stage we are asking them to move away from the area. We are working with the UK Border Agency and if any related offences are disclosed, these officers are here to deal with that.
"We aim to make this area a safer, more pleasant environment for people to work and shop."
The dispersal zone, which remains in force till the end of the year, covers the area within the boundary of Ossory Road, Malt Street, Green Hundred Road, Naylor Road, Meeting House Lane, Asylum Road, Cossall Walk, Blenheim Grove, Bushey Hill Road, Blakes Road and St George's Way.