Anti-social behaviour

What is anti-social behaviour? 

asb hanging around

The term anti-social behaviour covers a wide range of selfish and unacceptable activity that can blight the quality of community life. Terms such as ‘nuisance’, ‘disorder’ and ‘harassment’ are also used to describe some of this behaviour. 

Examples include: 

  • Nuisance neighbours
  • Yobbish behaviour and intimidating groups taking over public spaces
  • Vandalism, graffiti and fly-posting
  • People dealing and buying drugs on the street
  • People dumping rubbish and abandoned cars
  • Begging and anti-social drinking
  • The misuse of fireworks
  • Reckless driving of mini-motorbikes. 

A legal definition of anti-social behaviour is found in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The Act describes anti-social behaviour as 'acting in an anti-social manner as a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household' as the perpetrator.  

Why is it important? 

Anti-social behaviour ruins lives. It doesn’t just make life unpleasant; it prevents the renewal of disadvantaged areas and creates an environment where more serious crime can take hold. 

Anti-social behaviour is a major issue in some of the UK’s more deprived or disadvantaged communities.  

Anti-social behaviour is also expensive. It is estimated to cost the British taxpayer £3.4bn a year. 

Why does it happen? 

There are a variety of factors which increase the risk of anti-social behaviour. The more of these which are present, the more likely someone is to become involved in anti-social behaviour. 

Poor parenting skills, a weak parent/child relationship and a family history of problem behaviour. 

Truancy, exclusion and unchallenged bad behaviour. 

Community life
Living in deprived areas with disorder and neglect, lack of community spirit, living in areas with an already high-level of anti-social behaviour. 

Individual factors
Drug and alcohol abuse, alienation and early involvement in anti-social behaviour. 

There are a range of supportive interventions available which can help individuals and/or their parents and families change their own behaviour and enable them to tackle some of the underlying problems.   

What action can be taken?

Anti-social behaviour causes harm to individuals and the community and must be stopped as soon as possible, when the minimum harm has been caused.

The goal of any action is to:

  • protect victims, witnesses and the community
  • enable the perpetrator to understand the consequences of their behaviour
  • make sure the perpetrator changes their behaviour.

Measures that can be used by the police and other agencies include:

  • warning letters and interviews, contracts and agreements
  • fixed penalty notices and penalty notices for disorder
  • parenting orders, individual support orders, noise abatement notices, injunctions, dispersal powers and anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs)
  • ‘crack house’ closure orders
  • possession proceedings against a tenant.

Action may be initiated by a number of agencies including the police, local authorities, registered social landlords, housing trusts and youth offending teams.


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