POLICE have been given new powers to deal with anti-social beahviour in Bideford town centre with the granting by Torridge District Council of a dispersal order, which comes into effect on December 1. It follows a number of incidents over the past 12 months including acts of alcohol related violence, criminal damage and graffiti. The order gives the police the power to disperse groups of two or more people in the area where their presence or behaviour has resulted, or is likely to result, in a member of the public being harassed, intimidated, alarmed or distressed. Individuals can then be excluded from a specific area for up to 24 hours. Should individuals refuse to follow the dispersal notice they will be committing an offence that could result in a fine up to £2,500 or imprisonment. Young people under the age of 16 found in a dispersal area after 9pm and who are not accompanied by a responsible adult may be taken home by a uniformed police officer if they are involved in, or at risk from, anti-social behaviour. The order comes into force at 0600hrs on December 10 and expires atg 0600hrs on January 5, 2011. The order will be reviewed regularly and extended if necessary. Sgt Paul Searle said: Its important that people are not afraid to use Bideford town centre and in fact any other public areas such as parks and playgrounds. The police have received a number of reports of anti-social behaviour in the area of the town centre, Victoria Park, King George V playing field and the old cattle market relating to the actions of groups. This dispersal order will allow us to take immediate action on such individuals and ensure that Bideford remains a safe place to be. I would like to stress that it is only a minority of people who have been causing problems in, and the order is really so we can put a stop to this not to pick on groups who genuinely want to enjoy our town.