Stowmarket is proud to be the location for Suffolk’s first “Respect Zone”. Half of the car parking spaces in the Regal Car Park in Ipswich Street have been painted green and have signs to remind users to take extra care and respect nearby residents by keeping the noise down and not dropping litter.

John Spitzer, Community Safety Manager for Mid Suffolk and Jenny Treacher, West Suffolk Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinator, worked together to organise the scheme. John said “The Respect Zone is aimed at those who use the car park to meet their friends and hang out, rather than shoppers or residents. Whilst those people may not intend to cause trouble, the Council and Police have, in the past, received complaints about nuisance behaviour in this car park.

The Respect Zone doesn’t ban people from the car park – but it does remind them that there are others nearby, and to respect their right to live and work without being disturbed by noisy, rowdy behaviour or criminality”.

There will be a zero-tolerance approach to anti-social behaviour in Stowmarket’s Respect Zone. Sergeant Neil Paterson of the Stowmarket Safer Neighbourhood Team said “Anti-social vehicle use has been a priority for the team for some time, and officers have been issuing Section 59 notices for careless driving both on or off-road, or if the vehicle is likely to cause harassment, alarm or annoyance to members of the public. Two notices for a vehicle or a driver leads to the vehicle being seized and charges for removal and storage. With the paint and the signs, there will be no excuse for anyone behaving anti-socially or disorderly as people can clearly see what effect they are having on others nearby. We will patrol the Respect Zone and anyone found to be committing any offence there will be firmly dealt with, as any form of anti-social behaviour is unacceptable”.

Stowmarket’s scheme is based on a successful project in Dereham in Norfolk, where incidents of anti-social behaviour stopped completely once a Respect Zone was put in place in one of the town’s car parks. Sergeant Terry Scott of Norfolk Police and Breckland District Council’s Joint Anti-Social Behaviour Team says, “The Respect Zone’s signs give a warning that Police Officers would take action if they encountered people causing a nuisance. That allows us to go straight in and deal robustly with anyone ignoring those warnings.

The residents were sceptical at first as they had suffered many months of anti-social behaviour near their homes – but once the Zone went in one person was dealt with and everyone else soon got the message. We used to receive between ten and twenty complaints about that car park every weekend, and we’ve not had a single complaint for three years with the Respect Zone in place.”

The Respect Zone was funded by the West Suffolk Community Safety Partnership under the Staysafe initiative, a partnership approach to tackling anti-social behaviour and disorder. If the Respect Zone proves successful, it could be considered for other areas of Suffolk.