New PSPOs to be adopted by Epping Forest council to tackle anti-social behaviour

An Essex council will adopt new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) with an aim to put more power back into the hands of the administration to tackle incidents of anti-social behaviour.

At a meeting on Tuesday September 19, members of Epping Forest District Council voted to adopt the PSPOs, in order for the program to be rolled out from the beginning of January 2024.

Chairing the meeting, Councillor Helen Kane (Con, Waltham Abbey South West) said: “We have seen a lot of anti-social behaviour, and it’s time we do something about it.”

One PSPO will be implemented in Debden Broadway, Loughton, an area which has been highlighted for the focus of Home Office ‘anti-social behaviour (ASB) hotspot patrols’. The patrols have been introduced as a result of the Prime Minister’s new ASB action plan in conjunction with the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014.

The primary purpose of PSPOs is to allow incidents to be dealt with “swiftly” through the council issuing fixed penalty notice (FPN) fines rather than a “lengthy process” of posting warnings and notices.

Debden Broadway is described in a report presented to the scrutiny committee as a “well-used area” with a combination of residential and commercial premises on site, as well as a number of schools, a college and Debden underground station within close proximity.

The report notes data collected from Essex Police systems which shows that, between April 1 2018 and March 31 2023 there were 324 ASB incidents reported, and 1273 crimes recorded within the Broadway area.

Between 2022 and 2023, over half of the ASB incidents reported related to “groups of youths causing a nuisance”, which included complaints due to noise, drug-taking, intimidation and fighting.

Councillor Sam Kane (Con, Waltham Abbey Honey Lane) expressed scepticism over the effectiveness of issuing FPNs among those found committing anti-social acts in Debden Broadway, saying: “I’m struggling to see how this will work in terms of enforcement.

“Our officers won’t be able to demand names and addresses… I’m not sure how a fixed penalty notice would ever be issued against any defendants.

“Frankly, youngsters will say “do one” and move on.”

Senior Crime and ASB Officer Melissa Faux offered reassurance that each officer attending the scene of an ASB incident has police-accredited training, meaning that investigations may be opened and supporting evidence submitted.

The PSPO to be introduced in Debden Broadway will “complement the work of officers in the area by allowing them to take swift enforcement action against people behaving in a way to cause harm and distress to residents and businesses.”

Emma Doyle

Local Democracy Reporter