Police will soon have the power to disperse gangs of youths from St Helens town centre amid concerns about escalating anti-social behaviour.
From April 7, officers will be able to move on groups of two or more between 5pm and 11pm after St Helens Council backed the creation of a dispersal zone.
During the six-month scheme, groups will not be able to congregate in the town centre if they are deemed to be causing annoyance or intimidation.
Insp David Brennan said: “Police are aware of the ongoing anti-social behaviour issues in the area. We have listened to the issues of the community and businesses and taken positive action to address the problems.
“Dispersal orders can be incredibly successful and are just one of the tactics we use to combat anti-social and rowdy behaviour. We will continue to robustly deal with those who do not abide by the law or who act in an unsuitable manner.”
The dispersal zone will cover Westfield Street to Cotham Street, Cotham Street to Bickerstaffe Street, Bickerstaffe Street to Corporation Street, Corporation Street to Parr Street, Parr Street to Linkway West, Linkway West to Linkway East and Linkway East to Westfield Street.
Any groups which are moved on by uniformed officers can also be banned from returning to the area for 24 hours. Failure to comply can lead to arrest.
Town Hall leader Barrie Grunewald backed the scheme but argued that it was not introduced specifically in relation to the skateboarders in Church Square.
He said: “There has been a worrying increase in anti-social behaviour in the town centre at specific times and we are moving to tackle this problem quickly. I want to be very clear this section 30 order is not related to the issues of skateboarders and I do not expect that the powers will be used in dealing with that issue.
“Everyone who visits our Town Centre, young or old has the right to feel safe and this order will help achieve that.”