The rise of anti-social behaviour across the UK has reached epidemic proportions.
The annual Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated more than a third (37%) of adults experienced or witnessed anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their community last year – its highest level for six years.
Yet despite the shocking hike, a new report, named Anti-Social Behaviour: Living a Nightmare, has accused authorities of not doing enough to tackle the problem and leaving victims to suffer in silence.
Baroness Helen Newlove, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales who unveiled its findings in April, said at the time it was 'implausible' that ASB was still an issue 12 years after her husband, Garry, was murdered after confronting thugs outside his home.
'The feedback from victims is that, all too often, they feel they are being persistently targeted by their perpetrators, and yet ignored by those with the power to prevent and intervene,' she said. 'For many victims, their experience can be like living a nightmare.
It paints a concerning picture for authorities.
One aspect I feel particularly passionate about is its call for victims and communities to be at the heart of a partnership response to ASB.
As a consultant during the early stages of research for the report, I absolutely agree that this is the way forward. We must protect victims and encourage them to speak out. We want people to feel like their voice matters.
Accountability is key. The report found a mechanism known as the ‘community trigger’, which enables ASB victims to request a review of how agencies responded to an incident if they are unsatisfied with the outcome, was "largely unknown".
In some areas, the trigger hasn’t been used at all. It can also be difficult to find on agency websites and the threshold to enact the trigger is set too high.
National guidance suggests a threshold of three incidents of ASB in six months. In most cases, there will be more than that.
Once a trigger is activated, agencies should work together to review actions and next steps.
Used correctly, it would enable victims to hold agencies to account if they fail to resolve ASB complaints.
Multi-agency partnerships are also vital to combatting the problem. Agencies and local authorities must combine resources and share data to understand the problem, the vulnerability of the victim and the drivers of the perpetrator.
Working together, they can assess evidence, identify which agency is best suitable to act, provide support to the victims.
This approach leads to better action plans capable of challenging a perpetrator’s behaviour and helping them to reform.
At Resolve, we believe in a triple-track approach of early intervention, positive engagement and enforcement action when necessary.
Civil orders must initially set out boundaries for perpetrators, which, for example, curbs their interactions or behaviour, before further action is taken.
Early intervention is crucial. Nationally, three quarters (75%) of ASB cases are resolved at first intervention. This includes using positive engagement, education, mentoring and diversion activities to support people to change behaviour.
For young people, early intervention supports them to get back on track and avoid the prospect of moving on to more serious crime.
The fall in police numbers, with neighbourhood policing being hardest hit, makes this tough.
Youth services have also been cut. Many family intervention projects that supported parents to understand their role and boundary setting no longer exist.
This has led to a perfect storm. Young people being exploited in county lines crime and sexual exploitation, which has been instrumental in the increase of ASB.
To offset the rise, positive requirements should be incorporated into injunctions and Criminal Behaviour Orders to reduce drivers behind ASB.
We need to be more transparent with victims and communities by being clear about what they can and can’t do. The aim is to stop incident - not evict someone and move the problem elsewhere.
The community trigger is something agencies should welcome. It is a tool to prove they have taken necessary an appropriate action. It ensures victims are informed of the progress of the case and supported throughout.
Ultimately, we need drastic action to get ASB back under control. This trend must not continue. Everyone has the right to feel safe in their home – regardless of where they live.
Rebecca Bryant OBE is chief executive of anti-social behaviour and community safety organisation Resolve