A dispersal zone has been set up in Trafalgar Square and the Charing Cross area after police and Westminster council received complaints of anti-social behaviour, rough sleeping and harassment.
The zone allows police and police community support officers to order anyone engaging in anti-social behaviour to leave the zone and not to return for a period of 48 hours. Those who refused to leave, or who return during the exclusion period can be arrested and, if found guilty, risk up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to £2,500.
The dispersal order will be in place for 48 hours from 10.00 hrs on Monday, 19 January to 09.59 hrs on Wednesday, 21 January.
Scotland Yard says leaflets advising of the dispersal order have been distributed to members of the public and those who’ve been moved on.
West End Chief Inspector Louise Puddefoot said: “Having received complaints from the local community, we utilised the dispersal power to discourage groups of people from congregating in this area.
“Anybody that was dispersed was offered support and referred to the various outreach services that are available.
“We will be monitoring the use of the dispersal zone throughout the 48 hours to ensure it remains effective. Westminster is a great place to live, work and socialise in. It is the intention of the police and all our partners that this remains the case.”
The zone has been criticised by Baroness Jenny Jones, a member of the London Assembly’s police and crime committee who said: “I find it depressing when the police are called in to stop a pop-up soup kitchen which is helping the homeless. This dispersal zone is being used to hide the rough sleepers from the eyes of tourists.
“Instead of moving the problem onto somewhere else the Mayor should be supporting initiatives which help rough sleepers.”