New police powers to tackle a hotbed of crime and disorder in Spalding have come too late to stop another act of vandalism in the area.
A window panel at St Nicolas Church Hall, The Vista, was smashed at the weekend just after notices were going up about extra powers for police to ban groups of two or more people from meeting around there and Ayscoughfee Hall and Gardens for up to 24 hours.
The dispersal order takes effect on Friday after a spate of incidents where windows were smashed, a park bench damaged and three men were attacked in The Vista last month. But overnight between Saturday and Sunday, a glass door panel at the church hall was smashed.
Sarah Chadd, parish coordinator for St Mary and St Nicolas Church, Spalding, said: “Ironically, the dispersal order notices had just gone up at the hall and it was a pane of glass that the notice was displayed on which was smashed.”
Rev John Bennett, vicar of St Mary and St Nicolas, said: “Things had improved in recent weeks, thanks I’m sure to actions taken by the police who have been patrolling the area regularly.
“Sadly, another window has been broken at the hall so the problem hasn’t yet been solved. The police are doing everything they can to manage and contain the situation.
“But, in my opinion, until the Bull and Monkie site is redeveloped, The Vista area will continue to be a magnet for these sorts of problems.”
The dispersal order, which runs until October 1, allows police to order any group of people they suspect of anti-social behaviour to move on and not come back for up to 24 hours.
Police can also take home anyone they find in the area aged under 16 and not with their parent or other responsible adult.
A breach of the order could result in a fine of up to £5,000 or six months’ imprisonment.
Dave Sargent, a leader of the Vista Crew drop-in for teenagers who meet at the hall every other Saturday, said: “We’ve not had too much trouble around the time of our meetings and any trouble we have encountered has been dealt with.
“The police powers are going to be helpful and we hope young people who meet outside the hall might come in and take advantage of our facilities instead.
“We also hope the new powers might encourage groups planning to leave The Vista to stay here.”
Our sister paper, the Spalding Guardian, revealed that 1st Spalding Guides, Brownies and Rainbows were looking to move their meetings away from St Nicolas Church Hall after gangs of youths disrupted meetings by gathering outside the hall and climbing on top of the roof.
Guide leader Ann Tilbury said: “We’ve had trouble all year round from groups, including teenagers and older men.
“Two weeks ago, several of them were sitting only yards from the hall entrance, drinking and leaving all their rubbish behind.
“It’s difficult to safeguard our groups when this is happening, so what will happen after the order ends?”
Spalding community policing inspector Jim Tyner said: “We are investigating a report of further damage to St Nicolas Church Hall over the weekend.
“This confirms to me the necessity for my application for the dispersal order which takes effect from Friday.”