TACKLING ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR AND ITS CAUSES

FAQ


Anti-social behaviour (general)

What’s the difference between crime and anti-social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is defined in law as behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment alarm and or distress to others. It is about a continuous, longstanding process whereby victims are repeatedly subjected to abusive behaviour from individuals who typically are known to them. It includes behaviour such as noise nuisance and other environmental crime, and verbal abuse and intimidation. The court imposes an ASBO when it believes that the behaviour will not otherwise cease.

Crime is doing something forbidden by law. That could mean theft, assault, fraud, selling drugs. Typically, it is a one off event in which victims and witnesses do not know the perpetrator.

Crime is a serious matter because society finds even one incident to be worthy of punishment. Anti-social behaviour is serious, even when individual events may not be noteworthy in isolation, because of the devastating effect that the process, the repetition and the context can have on victims, witnesses and communities.

What’s the difference between an ASBO and an ASBI?

An ASBO (anti-social behaviour order) is a civil order designed to protect the public from behaviour that causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. An order contains conditions prohibiting the offender from carrying out specific anti-social acts or from entering defined areas, and is effective for a minimum of two years. ASBOs are not criminal sanctions and are not meant to punish the offender.

ASBIs (anti-social behaviour injunctions) are also civil orders and are similar to ASBOs, but are used in the context of social housing and are obtained in the county court. An injunction prohibits the person concerned from engaging in the behaviour detailed in the injunction. Injunctions can be used to prevent a range of anti-social behaviour relating to housing and the wider neighbourhood, for example; using a property for drug dealing, playing loud music at night, barking dogs, verbal abuse and vandalism.

How do I find out statistics about anti-social behaviour in my area?

Most local authorities produce statistics on anti-social behaviour for their crime and disorder reduction partnership (CDRP) records. These should be available to members of the public on request.

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Making a complaint

How do I complain about the way my case is being handled?

The first step is to telephone, write to or email your local council. Councils usually have a standard complaints form on their website. You should set out the facts and how you feel the council can remedy the matter. You can also write to your Ward Councillor or your local MP.

If you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been dealt with you can request a review by the Chief Executive of the council.

A complaint can also be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman. Further details can be found at www.lgo.org.uk.

My council are not dealing with the issues in my area. What can I do?

The first step is to telephone, write to or email your local council. Councils usually have a standard complaints form on their website. You should set out the facts and how you feel the council can remedy the matter. You can also write to your Ward Councillor or your local MP.

If you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been dealt with you can request a review by the Chief Executive of the council.

A complaint can also be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman. Further details can be found at www.lgo.org.uk.

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Drugs

What can I do about drug dealing in my community?

If you are concerned about drug dealing your area you can contact the following authorities:

Local authority

Contact your authority and ask to speak to a crime prevention officer or find your local anti-social behaviour officer.

Local drug action team

Contact your local drug action team co-ordinator.

Crime Stoppers

Call anonymously on 0800 555 111 with any information that could help police arrest dealers and solve other drug related crime.

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Environmental problems

What can I do about an abandoned car in my street?

It is the responsibility of the relevant waste collection authority, usually the local authority, to remove abandoned and nuisance vehicles. In most instances it will be the local authority who will remove them from the road, but in some circumstances, such as dangerously/illegally parked abandoned vehicles, the police will remove the car.

If you have a problem with an abandoned car, the first step would be to contact your local authority to report the problem. There may be a dedicated telephone number to report anti-social behaviour and environmental issues, but if not the council switchboard should be able to direct your call.

Alternatively, you can contact you local anti-social behaviour coordinator to report the problem.

What can be done about a problem alley?

If you are suffering crime or anti-social behaviour in alleyways near your home, the council have a duty to look into the problem. If direct interventions such as police community support officers on patrol, CCTV, ASBOs, etc are not applicable or do not work, the council may be able to gate off the alleyway to all but residents and authorised people, such as emergency services and utility companies.

The decision to gate an alleyway is not taken lightly, and the council must go through a public consultation process first before gates can be installed. The process is normally started following a call from local residents to the council to highlight a particular problem alleyway.

If you would like to know more about gating alleyways, the rights of way or road department of your local council should be able to give you further information on gating. Alternatively, you can contact you local anti-social behaviour coordinator.

How can I report dog fouling?

It is an offence for a person to not clear up after their dog in a public place; this includes parks and open spaces, pavements and roads. If caught, a person can be issued with a fixed penalty notice. Your local authority has a duty to keep the public areas clean, so if you have problem with dog fouling you can contact your local authority to report the problem. In the majority of cases, the department that deals with litter will also deal with dog fouling, and there may be a dedicated telephone number to report anti-social behaviour and environmental issues, but if not the council switchboard should be able to direct your call.

How can I report fireworks misuse?

The misuse of fireworks is a very serious offence and can result in serious injuries or fatalities to members of the public. If you see someone misusing fireworks in street or public place you should call 999 immediately. If the problem of fireworks relates to the noise caused by them at night, then this can be tackled by your local authority if they have a noise team, or the police. If you wish to report the problem the council switchboard should be able to direct your call, alternatively you can contact your local police station.

How can I report fly tipping?

Fly tipping is the illegal disposal of waste. The scale of the fly-tipping and the type of waste dumped will determine who will remove it. In most cases household fly tipping, such as black bags, old mattresses and sofas will be the responsibility of the local authority. However, larger fly tipping, which in some instances can be very hazardous such as old fridges, builders waste, chemicals and oils, is usually the responsibility of the Environment Agency who will be able to remove the waste in a safe manner.

Fly-tipping is a very serious offence and the financial penalties for those caught can be huge. If you see someone dumping waste you should try and record as much information as possible about the perpetrator (person description, type of clothes, etc) and the vehicle registration if they have used one. If you consider the incident is serious you should report it to the Environment Agency hotline (0800 807060), your local police station or CrimeStoppers (0800 555111). If you think the incident could put you or the public in danger you should contact 999. If the incident looks like household waste you should contact your local authority’s waste department.

How can I report graffiti?

Graffiti is classed as criminal damage, and it can be very expensive to clean up and repair property. Even if the graffiti only appears to be small, the vandal may have damaged many other properties and it is important to report the problem.

In most instances it is the responsibility of the person or organisation who owns the vandalised property to clear up the graffiti. To ensure that action is taken as quickly as possible it is important to call the correct number to report the problem:

  • If the property is clearly labelled with a company logo (such as a BT phonebox) or the property owner is clearly obvious (such as a Royal Mail post box), you should call them direct. The internet or directory enquiries should be able to provide telephone numbers for these national companies.
  • If the graffiti is on railway property, you can either contact the rail operating company direct if known or the British Transport Police (0800 40 50 40 or by email graffiticrime@btp.pnn.police.uk).
  • If the graffiti is on the London Underground or other local transport provider you should contact them direct.
  • If the graffiti is on public property, such as walls, lampposts, or buildings you should contact your local authority. They will most likely have a graffiti department and the switchboard should be able to direct your call.
  • If you see graffiti on other property, such as bus shelters, advertisement hoardings, etc you should contact the graffiti team at the local authority (as above) who should be able to direct your call.
  • If you see a person actually vandalising property, you should record as much information about the perpetrator as possible (person description, clothing, etc) and contact one of the organisations above, CrimeStoppers (0800 555111) or your local police station. Alternatively, you can contact you local anti-social behaviour coordinator.

What can I do about my neighbour’s high hedges?

High hedges blocking out sunlight or views can cause serious disputes between neighbours. Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 enables local authorities to deal with complaints about high hedges which are having an adverse effect on a neighbour's enjoyment of property. Complaining to the local authority should always be a last resort, and neighbours are expected to have made every effort to resolve the issue amicably.

Over The Garden Hedge (PDF 1.7Mb)   is a leaflet produced by the Department for Communities and Local Government advising members of the public on ways to negotiate with their neighbours to reach agreement over hedges. A second leaflet called “Complaining To The Council” is also available.

Your local authority can charge a fee for dealing with such complaints, and their task will be to decide whether 'reasonable enjoyment of a property is being adversely affected by the height of a high hedge situated on land owned or occupied by another person.’

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Neighbour nuisance

I have reported my problem with my neighbours but the council aren’t dealing with it. What can I do?

The first step is to telephone, write to or email your local council. Councils usually have a standard complaints form on their website. You should set out the facts and how you feel the council can remedy the matter. You can also write to your Ward Councillor or your local MP.

If you are not satisfied with how your complaint has been dealt with you can request a review by the Chief Executive of the council.

A complaint can also be referred to the Local Government Ombudsman. Further details can be found at www.lgo.org.uk.

What can I do about kids playing ball games in my street?

‘No ball games’ signs can be erected within residential areas in an effort to encourage the youths to use park/ open field playing areas. However unless a bylaw has been imposed by the local authority to run alongside a 'no ball games' sign no legal action can be taken.

Powers are available under the Highways Act 1980 to deal with football being played on a highway. Section 161(3) states 'if a person plays at football or any other game on a highway to the annoyance of a user of the highway he is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £10.'

What can I do about intimidating groups hanging around?

Contact your local authority’s anti-social behaviour team and the police to report the situation to them. Keep a diary of incidents to show a pattern of behaviour: the time, place, how many people are congregating. The more evidence there is to establish a pattern of anti-social behaviour the more effective the remedy will be.

My neighbour has complained about my children making noise. What can I do?

Try to consider the complaint as genuine. Sometimes the noise from children can be very loud even if they are playing nicely. Also keep talking to your neighbours and try to resolve the issue amicably.

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Mental health and anti-social behaviour

What can be done about an anti-social person with mental health problems?

Local authorities have a duty under the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 to assess any person who may be in need of community care services. If there is evidence that suggests a person against whom an ASBO is being sought may be suffering from drug, alcohol or mental health problems, the necessary support should be provided by social services or other support agencies. Such support should run in parallel with the collection of evidence and application for an order, where an application for an order is deemed necessary.

Therefore, if there is evidence to suggest that a perpetrator of anti-social behaviour is suffering from learning difficulties, mental health problems or a disability such as attention deficit disorder then a practitioner with specialist knowledge in the relevant fields should be involved in an assessment process to determine the cause of the behaviour and how it can be addressed. The assessment should take account of any known disability as well as uncovering undiagnosed problems.

This should take place at the outset, usually at the consultation stage between the agencies, and should take every reasonable step to address how the disability has an impact on the anti-social behaviour. It is important to determine that the anti-social behaviour is not related solely to the mental health problems. Ultimately it is for the courts to decide whether or not an ASBO should be issued.

It is equally as important to protect the community which the individual is affecting as the fact that a person has a disability does not make the anti-social behaviour any less frightening. If, after the assessment has been conducted, it is decided that the perpetrator will not understand the action being taken against them, the assessment should suggest an alternative for the protection of the community. It may be, for example, that it is appropriate for the person to be sectioned.

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Tenants and landlords

Do private owners / agents have a legal responsibility for the actions of their tenants?

Not unless they are subject to selective licensing under the Housing Act 2004 by the local authority. Generally, tenants in private rented accommodation who behave anti-socially can be dealt with by the local authority or the police.

What responsibilities do social landlords have for the actions of their tenants?

Section 12 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 requires all social landlords (local housing authorities, registered social landlords and housing action trusts) to prepare and publish statements and summaries of their policies and procedures in relation to anti-social behaviour so that everyone can see what commitments the landlord is making.

Section 13 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 builds on housing injunctions that are available in the Housing Act 1996. An injunction prohibits the person concerned from engaging in specified types of behaviour. Some injunctions can exclude the person from specified places or areas. Breach of the conditions of an injunction can result in up to two years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine for contempt of court. Injunctions are increasingly used to control anti-social behaviour in situ rather than displacing the problem, for example by evicting nuisance tenants who are then able to continue the behaviour in another property.

Under this act, registered social landlords and housing action trusts have the same powers to protect their tenants as local authorities, including the ability to obtain a power of arrest without needing to prove a breach of a tenancy agreement.

The anti-social behaviour does not have to occur in or near the landlord's properties to be covered (so long as there is some link with the landlord's housing management function). For example, housing staff may be protected even when they are working away from the locality, and even when they are not at work (where the anti-social behaviour has some link with their work).

A power of arrest or an exclusion order is available where there has been serious anti-social behaviour but no violence or threat of violence. A power of arrest or an exclusion order is available where there is a significant risk of harm - this could include emotional or psychological harm.

Local authorities, housing action trusts and registered social landlords may apply to the County Court to allow a tenancy to be brought to an end by a demotion order. Upon granting of the order, the tenancy is replaced with a less secure form of tenancy.

When things go wrong and a tenant fails to meet the standards of reasonable behaviour established by their tenancy agreement, a landlord may seek to protect the rights of other tenants and the wider community by enforcing the terms of the tenancy.

Seeking repossession of someone's home is an extremely serious action and therefore where possession is sought on the basis of the anti-social behaviour of tenants, the court must be satisfied, on the basis of the evidence, that it is reasonable to do so.

What action can be taken against anti-social neighbours who are owner/occupiers?

Owner occupiers are not exempt from legal action being taken against them if they behave antisocially. The local authority and the police or a registered social landlord can make an application for an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) or an injunction if it is appropriate to do so. There are also powers available under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 which can be used to deal with statutory nuisance such as noise.

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Bullying

What can be done about bullying in schools?

If your child is experiencing bullying at school you should write to the head teacher and express your concerns. Schools are required by law to have an anti bullying policy which is as much for parents as it is for staff and students. Try to work and resolve the issue. If that does not help, you could then write to the Chair of Governors, and then to the local authority. If the problem still remains unresolved, the Department for Education and Skills www.dfes.gov.uk can investigate the allegations with the school. You can also ring the helpline at Parentline Plus on 0808 800 2222 for general information.

For more information go to http://www.parentscentre.gov.uk/worriedabout/bullying/.

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Being rehoused

I want to be re-housed due to anti-social behaviour in my neighbourhood. What can I do?

You should contact the housing department in your local council or your housing association for advice. However, in the first instance they may want to look at using the tools and powers available to them to tackle the anti-social behaviour before considering an application for re-housing.

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Tackling anti-social behaviour

What can I do to tackle anti-social behaviour in my area?

Report all incidents which you witness to the local anti-social behaviour team and the police, or if appropriate the social landlord. If it is an ongoing situation keep a record of the events in a diary giving details of the incidents with times, dates, and how the behaviour is making you feel.

Neighbourhood watch is a scheme where people work in partnership to make communities safer. Find out more at http://www.neighbourhoodwatch.uk.com/.

Contact your local anti-social behaviour co-ordinator to enquire whether there are any local groups that you could join or make enquiries with TPAS (tenants participation advisory service) to get information about setting up a residents group.

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Witnesses

I’m appearing as a witness in an anti-social behaviour case. What support is available?

The representative from the agency applying for the ASBO (e.g. your local authority or police) should put you in touch with people who may be able to offer support. They should, if necessary assess your home environment to understand what witness protection measures are required (such as installing new locks on windows and doors, a panic button). They should also give details of an emergency out of hours contact.

If you do not wish to come forward to give evidence, the agency applying for the ASBO should consider the use of hearsay evidence containing anonymised witness statements and professional witnesses

It is a criminal offence if a person knowingly performs an act intended to intimidate another person who is or may be a witness in civil or criminal proceedings. The penalty can be up to five years in prison.

If you are an intimidated or vulnerable witness (under 17 years old or whose quality of evidence is likely to be diminished because they have a mental disorder or learning disability or have a physical disability or physical disorder) the applicant agency should push for the court to allow the use of ‘special measures’. Special measures directions cover a range of provisions, including allowing witnesses to give evidence by means of a live video link, the erection of screens between witnesses and perpetrators and directing a judge to remove their wig.

Do local authorities have a duty to support witnesses?

Witnesses are crucial to tackling anti-social behaviour, whether they are victims of anti-social behaviour directed against them specifically, or residents who witness anti-social behaviour directed against the community. It is therefore important that where the applicant for the ASBO is the local authority it ensures that the necessary support is available to the witness.

What is the process if I agree to be a witness in an anti-social behaviour case?

A representative from the agency applying for the ASBO should talk to you about making your report of the anti-social behaviour, discuss why it is important and advise you of the timescales and arrangements in court and keep you informed through regular contact.

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CCTV

Is it legal to film people without their knowledge?

It is only legal to partake in covert surveillance if authority has been given under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. However, in a domestic situation there are no legal constraints on domestic CCTV being installed and for recordings to be taken and stored by the resident without the knowledge of the person who has been filmed. It is only appropriate to focus a CCTV camera on the boundary of your own property for the purpose of security.

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ARTICLE LAST UPDATED: 09/11/2007

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