POLICE say a dispersal order covering the town centre has helped prevent hundreds of people getting into serious trouble.

The order, which has been renewed for a further six months this week, gives police the power to tell groups of two or more people causing problems to go home. Anyone who ignores the order can be arrested.

Town centre beat manager Andy Alexander says the order has been a massive boost to officers policing the area on weekends. Another dispersal order, which covers the bus station and is aimed at the homeless drunks who gather there, has also just been renewed for a further six months.

PC Alexander said: "We couldn't live without the town centre order. It is used continually. It's been a massive help for policing the town centre and the number of times we have used it would be in the hundreds.

"The order at the bus station was brought in as a result of demands from the public.

"We have got a group of hardened drunks who have settled in the bus station and become entrenched."

The town centre order has now been in effect for a year and this is the second time it has been renewed. It was introduced last year after a 50 per cent increase in offences.

The dispersal order on the bus station was introduced last October. At the time PCSO Stuart Bird said the number of people being drunk and aggressive at the bus station was on the up.

PC Alexander said: "It allows us to remove people before they can cause problems."

Swindon Council and the police have overseen 24 dispersal orders since they were they were introduced in 2004. The first one in Swindon was brought in on March 1, 2004, in Stratton.

Other areas that have benefited include Liden shops, Newburgh Place in Highworth and Clive Parade in Pinehurst. Welcombe Avenue in Park North is due to be the next area to get a dispersal order.

Cheri Wright, the council's antisocial behaviour coordinator, said: "The dispersal order in the town centre is a pivotal part of the way in which the night time economy is policed in the town centre as police can proactively tackle some of the groups congregating before problems ensue.

"The order at the bus station targets some of the problems with street drinkers and this gives the police the ability to move them on and deal with them effectively."