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Monday, 27 September 2010

Anti-social behaviour: how to 'stop the rot'

  • Published: Friday, 24 September 2010

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the independent body that inspects UK police forces, has published a report on anti-social behaviour. Outlining what works and what doesn't, the report has made a number of recommendations in how to tackle the anti-social behaviour that blights many parts of the UK.

The scale of the problem

Anti-social behaviour

More about anti-social behaviour in the UK and how to report it

Over the past three years there have been a number of high profile cases of anti-social behaviour making peoples’ lives a misery. In extreme cases, a failure to stop anti-social behaviour has led to tragic consequences.

It is estimated that just 28 per cent of incidents of anti-social behaviour are reported to the police. However, this still meant that 3.5 million calls were made to the police about anti-social behaviour in 2009-10.

While anti-social behaviour can cover all sorts of crime and disorder, rowdy and disorderly behaviour are by far the most commonly reported incidents.

Of the 3.5 million calls made in 2009-10, 2.1 million were about rowdy and disorderly behaviour.

The impact of anti-social behaviour

Whether a particular case of anti-social behaviour technically counts as a 'crime' or not, the public dislike anti-social behaviour, worry about reporting it, and are intimidated in significant numbers when they do.

The fear of anti-social behaviour can have a real impact on people’s lives. The most frequent responses to the fear of anti-social behaviour are:

  • avoiding certain areas or streets
  • avoiding walking, going out or staying out at night
  • taking precautions and being more aware or more vigilant
  • avoiding groups and gangs of youths or school children
  • not using public transport
  • worrying about carrying cash and valuables or using cash machines
  • worrying about damage to cars and property
  • avoiding going out or being alone
  • worrying about family members and children

As well as making peoples’ lives a misery, anti-social behaviour also acts like a magnet for other crime and disorder problems. This means that areas can quite easily tip into a spiral of economic and social decline.

Tackling anti-social behaviour – what works?

Neighbourhood policing

How neighbourhood policing teams work in your local area

The 'Respect' programme, launched in 2005, has made a difference in tackling anti-social behaviour. It provided local authorities with a number of tools to fight anti-social behaviour, including ASBOs, Parenting Orders, Family Intervention Projects and Dispersal Orders.

An increasing awareness among police forces of the scale of the problem of anti-social behaviour has also made a difference.

The number of police forces that have anti-social behaviour as a force priority has grown from 20 in January 2010 to all 43 in September.

In terms of stragey, early intervention has proved highly successful. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary research has shown that where police take timely action, most victims of anti-social behaviour are satisfied with police action.

The following actions were found to provide the best service to victims of anti-social behaviour:

  • briefing all relevant officers and staff on local anti-social behaviour issues
  • gathering and analysing data and information about anti-social behaviour places, offenders and victims in their area
  • providing neighbourhood policing teams with the right tools and resources to tackle anti-social behaviour, and monitoring plans put in place to tackle local anti-social behaviour issues

In contrast, graded response systems that prioritise calls for attendance, and lengthy partnership processes between bodies dealing with anti-social behaviour did not work.

The way forward

The report concluded that both timely action and early intervention are needed to tackle the problem of anti-social behaviour.

A rapid response by the police to reports of anti-social behaviour will probably deliver ‘better treatment’ of the issues. Indeed, where timely action is taken 83 per cent of victims are satisfied with the police response. However, this is unlikely to stem the growth of a problem that has grown over the years.

Early intervention offers the chance to nip much more of the problem in the bud. This strategy will require:

  • reform of police availability
  • a refocusing on what causes harm in communities, rather than what is or is not a 'crime'
  • 'feet on the street' - more police and Police Community Support Officers on the beat
  • more effective collaboration between public bodies to deal, for example, with problem tenants, and shops selling alcohol, knives and spray paint

Most importantly, individuals and communities need to re-establish acceptable rules of behaviour. The police and other agencies can help with this, but the people on the receiving end of this behaviour have to be involved, the report said.

The report concluded: "There is a huge potential pay-off from an early intervention strategy to restore peace to our streets and to impact on criminality, but it cannot be cost free. This is not to say that new investment is needed, but rather there must be a refocusing, funding that which works for victims. Dealing with the greatest harms could offer a way forward."

Further information

To read the report in full, follow the link below. You can also find reports on how each police force is performing on three actions that work to tackle anti-social behaviour.

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