Something that can affect the lives of a great many people but which largely goes unreported by the media is anti-social behaviour. Anti-social behaviour is one of the big challenges of our times, it holds the potential to impact on people’s lives in so many ways, by causing feelings of helplessness, desperation, and a reduced quality of life.
If victims are subjected to persistent anti-social behaviour it can really have a devastating impact on their lives, particularly if they are singled out. In the last few years anti-social behaviour seems to have slipped from the public consciousness. As a result charitable organisations set up to help victims of anti-social behaviour have lost out on funding, and consequently have a low profile among victims.
In this article we look at what anti-social behaviour is, what to do if you are a victim or know someone who is, what can be done to stop it and how you yourself can change the situation.
What is anti-social behaviour?
Anti-social behaviour is a broad term used to describe a whole range of unacceptable behaviour, which includes crime, nuisance, harassment, and disorder. Anti-social behaviour leaves people feeling alarmed and distressed – either in their community or home.
The police summarise anti-social behaviour as being:
:: Personal – where an individual or group is targeted.
:: Nuisance – where the community at large experiences trouble, annoyance or suffering.
:: Environmental – not targeted at individuals or groups but the wider environment, such as public spaces and buildings.
What is considered to be anti-social behaviour therefore varies greatly, but lists generally tend to include the following:
:: Nuisance neighbours (noisy or abusive).
:: Intimidating groups taking over public spaces.
:: Acting in a rowdy or inconsiderate manner.
:: Being drunk in public or street drinking.
:: Aggressive dogs.
:: Abandoning vehicles.
:: Using vehicles inappropriately.
Whilst these acts would not generally be considered crimes in themselves, if repeated enough the damage they can do to people is immense. In many cases this unacceptable behaviour, can be the thin end of the wedge, as anti-social behaviour usually occurs in areas where more serious crimes are committed.
Who to contact to stop anti-social behaviour
Many people don’t know it but anti-social behaviour, can be addressed by councils, community groups, and the police. And it is because anti-social behaviour can include such a wide range of activities that different bodies can play different roles, depending on the nature of the incident.
Councils and the police should treat any anti-social behaviour problem that is affecting you or your family seriously, and you have the right to expect them to consider this behaviour seriously and treat resolving it as a priority.
Your local council
Your local council will have a range of powers to tackle anti-social behaviour and will have a named person, an anti-social behaviour team or a dedicated phone line where you can report incidents. You can also speak to your councillors. They are elected representatives who are there to work with communities and other organisations to make progress on difficult situations like anti-social behaviour. You can get the contact details for your relevant councillor from your council or drop into one of their meetings.
Neighbourhood Policing Team
You can report crime to your neighbourhood policing team, who work in your area and work directly with communities to resolve crime and anti-social behaviour problems. To report anti-social behaviour which is not an emergency, you can contact your local police force by dealing 101.
However if there is an emergency, such as a crime is taking place, someone is injured, being threatened or in danger, or you suspect someone is carrying out a crime nearby, you should always dial 999.
What action can agencies take?
In the first instance agencies such as the police, the council, will try to stop a problem as quickly as possible by using early intervention techniques. Early intervention techniques include verbal warnings, written agreements, mediation, and Acceptable Behaviour Contracts.
Acceptable Behaviour Contracts are agreements formed between the council and the police with young offenders who are under the age of 18. The juvenile agrees not to be involved with certain anti-social acts. ABC are witnessed by the young person’s parents.
The above should be the first port of call, and the police and council must try these early intervention techniques before they are allowed to take a case to court. If this fails, the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gives agencies new powers to tackle anti-social behaviour. These are:
1. Injunctions – if someone is causing a nuisance or annoyance in a residential setting or causing harassment, alarm or distress elsewhere then an injunction can be issued against them forbidding them from doing it.
2. Criminal Behaviour Orders – if the court thinks that someone convicted of a crime will continue to cause anti-social behaviour then they can be issued with a Criminal Behaviour Order to stop them from doing so. This bans them from carrying out certain activities, going to certain places and makes them address their behaviour (for example, seeking treatment for drug or alcohol abuse). Breaking a Criminal Behaviour Order can lead to up to five years in prison.
3. Police Dispersal Notice – these allow the police to order anti-social people to leave an area and not go back there for a specified period of time. This can provide short term respite to local communities and takes immediate effect. The officer also has the power to confiscate items.
4. Community Protection Notice and Orders – these can be issued against individuals or organisations by local authorities or the police to stop ongoing and persistent environmental anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, neighbour noise, or dumping rubbish on private land.
5. Public Spaces Protection Orders – these can be used by local authorities if there is particular nuisance or a problem in a public area that is detrimental to the local community’s quality of life. The order is universal (it applies to everyone regardless of whether or not they have committed an act of anti-social behaviour previously) and can be used to tackle issue such as the consumption of alcohol or dog fouling.
6. Closure of Premises – if a building is being used for ant-social behaviour then agencies can prevent entry to that building. This could be a pub or club but it could also be a house.
What can you do as an individual?
Whilst vigilantism is not encouraged, community support plays a crucial role in tackling anti-social behaviour and you can help the council, and the police by working with them and playing an active role in your community. By doing this you can help to demonstrate anti-social behaviour will not be tolerated and will instead be tackled. So if you see anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhood then you should absolutely report it. The police and other authorities are only able to take action if they know something about it.
By reporting anti-social behaviour you can potentially prevent other people from putting up with the abuse. This could be your friends, family, neighbours, colleagues, visitors or just people in general in your area. You will make your community a lot happier.
Reporting incidents also helps to create a catalogue of evidence. It is important evidence does exist from both victims and witnesses because it demonstrates anti-social behaviour is causing distress in the community.