A dispersal zone has been put in place on Liverpool’s waterfront today (Friday 23 July) following further reports of criminality and anti-social behaviour in the area.
The overwhelming majority of young people visiting the waterfront have been responsible and respectful to others.
But the actions of a minority seemingly intent on behaving anti-socially have risked spoiling the experience of visiting the docks for many others, and the dispersal zone introduced today will seek to deter and prevent those youths from continuing to mar the experience for everyone else.
Yesterday, police received reports of males aged 13-16 jumping off the bridge at Mariners Wharf, dragging members of the public off paddleboards and jumping into customers boats at the Watersports Centre.
Later, large groups of youths were reported to have thrown nitrous oxide canisters and plastic bottles at dock security, others were seen urinating on walls and being abusive to the public, fighting and smashing glass bottles, drinking alcohol underage and inhaling nitrous oxide. Others reportedly threw bottles at people kayaking in the docks and were again reportedly climbing onto inflatables at Wild Shore without paying and unsupervised.
To prevent further incidents another dispersal zone has been set up, with regular police patrols to ensure that law abiding members of the public can enjoy everything the Liverpool waterfront has to offer.
The order has been in place since 1pm today, will run to 7am on Sunday (25 July), and will include the area bounded by the River Mersey, St Nicholas Place, Georges Dock Gates, The Strand, Wapping, Chaloner Street, Sefton Street and Brunswick Way.
Police officers and police community support traffic officers will again have the power to direct people they suspect are causing or likely to cause crime, nuisance or anti-social behaviour to members of the public to leave a designated area and not return for up to 48 hours.
Under the legislation, officers have the power to seize any item used in the commission of anti-social behaviour. Should a person who has previously been directed to leave the area return, an offence would be committed, which they may ultimately be arrested for.
Inspector Charlotte Irlam said: “The waterfront should be a safe space for everyone to visit and make the most of the lovely weather we’ve had this week, not a place for the reckless and frankly dangerous anti-social behaviour we have been seeing in recent days.
“Families and young people enjoying the Wild Shore attraction and Watersports Centre, as well as those visiting and working around the docks, have not only had to witness this behaviour but in some cases been direct victims of verbal abuse and the throwing of items.
“We simply will not stand for this, and continue to work with our partners to take all necessary action.
“We have implemented this dispersal zone on the waterfront and surrounding area to prevent further incidents. These dispersal zones are certainly not designed to prevent young people, or anyone else, from meeting at the docks to enjoy what is a world renowned space with fantastic architecture and facilities. It is not about stopping young people from meeting with their friends after such a challenging time during lockdown, the majority of whom have behaved perfectly reasonably.
“It is simply about making sure the minority who come intent on behaving anti-socially can be moved out of the area, to enable people of all ages to feel safer and enjoy everything the waterfront has to offer.”
Insp Irlam added: “It is everyone’s interests – including those behaving irresponsibly – to make sure this behaviour stops. We have seen this week in our region and across the country the devastating and tragic consequences swimming unsupervised in open water can have.
“Many of those entering the water at the docks unsupervised put their own safety and the safety of others at risk, with some people pushed in unexpectedly and against their will.
“We know how dangerous this can be, and will not stand by and let people put themselves and others in harm’s way. Dispersal Zones enable us to maintain a constant presence in key areas, and to order people to leave if we believe they are intent on behaviour that is anti-social or dangerous.”
Colleagues at North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) have urged people to be more aware of the dangers of swimming in the docks.
NWAS Hazardous Area Response Team Leader David Berry said: “Predominantly a lot of the water rescue calls we get called to are teenagers. At this time of year they think the water is very inviting, whether it be a river, canal or reservoir and before you know it they have got into trouble. Even good, competent swimmers can get into difficulty.
“The temperature of the water generally doesn’t change from winter to summer. When you jump into open water your body can start to cramp up with cold shock syndrome – you might think you are invincible but it happens and it is beyond your control. There is nothing worse for us than getting another call with another teenager who has gone underwater and is never seen again.”
MFRS Area Manager Gary Oakford added: “For their own safety people should only swim in areas such as beaches with lifeguard cover – the water can be exceptionally cold and particularly if jumping in, sudden immersion can lead to cold water shock which can cause gasping and intake of water, even in a strong swimmer.
“There may be debris under the water which could cause serious injury or trap you. We would urge everyone to enjoy the area safely and with respect towards others.”
Liverpool’s Cabinet Member for neighbourhoods, Councillor Abdul Qadir, added: “The waterfront is for everybody to use and enjoy, regardless of whether they are a resident, worker or visitor.
“The measures being taken are to make sure people do not feel intimidated or unsafe through the actions of a minority.
“We are working with our partners to engage with young people and find alternative activities for them.”
Bill Addy, chief executive officer of Liverpool Business Improvement District (BID) Company, said: “We’re looking forward to bringing both the businesses and the partners involved in the Pier Head and the wider waterfront together early next week.
“It’s vital to us that we work not to exclude but make our public spaces as safe and accessible for everyone, that includes our young people as well as our businesses and residents.
“As part of the new Culture & Commerce BID, one of our roles is to broker conversations between different groups and this is what we want to achieve here. We’ll be looking at what resources we can gather together to support everyone being able to enjoy our glorious waterfront as safely as possible.”