05:53, April 30 269 0 theguardian.com

2019-04-30 05:53:04
Antisocial behaviour ignored by authorities, report claims

Antisocial behaviour is being played down or ignored by the authorities despite blighting the lives of victims, according to a report.

People persistently targeted by perpetrators are left to suffer in silence amid shortcomings in the response by agencies including the police and councils, it has been claimed.

Publishing the findings, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, Helen Newlove, said “depressingly little” had changed since her husband, Garry, was killed outside his home after confronting vandals in 2007.

She said: “It seems implausible that, 12 years later, here I am still raising the issue of antisocial behaviour. 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. For many victims, their experience can be like living a nightmare.”

Antisocial behaviour (ASB) is a blanket term for conduct that can cause harassment, alarm or distress. Examples listed on the police.uk website include vandalism, street drinking, prostitution-related activity, misuse of fireworks, and nuisance, rowdy or inconsiderate neighbours.

Produced in partnership with the charity ASB Help and Nottingham Trent University, the report:

Cites analysis suggesting street drinking or drunken behaviour is the most common form of ASB experienced or witnessed, followed by groups hanging around.

Has found that a mechanism known as the community trigger – introduced to act as a safety net for ASB victims – is largely unknown, even among those working in frontline agencies;

Says victims are passed from one agency to another, face lengthy delays when calling the 101 police non-emergency number, and often feel the needs of perpetrators are given more weight than their own;

And warns that the cumulative effect of antisocial behaviour is often not taken into account, resulting in authorities failing to appreciate the scale of the impact on those affected.

The assessment says antisocial behaviour can cause immense distress and suffering, affecting victims’ health, sleep, work and relationships, and leaving them feeling unsafe at home.

In one case cited in the report, a woman is said to have been subjected to “two years of hell” by a neighbour. She said: “Even now, I can’t relax at all, I can’t rest in that house. It’s going to take many, many months, I think. I mean, the stress has been phenomenal.”

Calling for systemic change, Lady Newlove said she found it “infuriating” to hear antisocial behaviour referred to as low-level crime.

“That description illustrates very neatly how ASB is often treated as a series of isolated incidents, rather than taking into account the cumulative effect that it has on its victims,” she said.

Setting out her blueprint for improving the response, the commissioner called for those repeatedly affected by anti-social behaviour to be given the same entitlement to support as victims of other crimes. She also recommended a review of the 101 phone line to ensure it was “fit for purpose”.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 37% of adult respondents experienced or witnessed antisocial behaviour in their local area last year – the highest proportion since data collection started in 2011-12.

Separate figures show about 1.4m incidents of antisocial behaviour were recorded by police in 2018, a 16% fall on the previous 12 months.

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils know people look to them to tackle the antisocial behaviour which can make a law-abiding resident’s life hell or blight an entire neighbourhood.

“It’s a role they take extremely seriously but one which is being made increasingly challenging as a result of losing 60p out of every £1 they had from government to spend on services in the past decade.”

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor, The national police lead for antisocial behaviour, said: “We are working with local authorities and other agencies to effectively combat ASB and empower victims and communities.”

He added that further long-term funding was needed as forces were “under increasing strain as they deal with rising crime, demand that is more complex and a raised terror threat with fewer officers”.

A government spokesman said it was “committed to tackling antisocial behaviour and ensuring victims get the response they deserve”.

He added: “That is why we reformed powers available to the police, local authorities and others to tackle antisocial behaviour and continue to keep them under review.”