Did you know 3rd- 9th July sees the return of ASB Awareness Week. This was actioned by a group called Resolve. The organisation Resolve marks 27 years of providing a Centre of Excellence solely focused on Antisocial behaviour (ASB) and community safety. Resolve aims to target ASB by working with its members, who include local authorities, police and housing associations to find solutions in order to alleviate the root causes of the problem. It is good to know that there are people and organisations looking at ways to tackle these issues but what to do in the here and now.
As summer kicks in and the school holidays approach, what is a great time for some becomes a nightmare for others. Antisocial behaviour by youths is a serious blight on the widespread community. There is no doubt that the finer weather, longer daylight hours and bored kids lead to an increase in ASB across the whole country.
In the county of Hertfordshire alone 24.2% of all crimes reported are related to antisocial behaviour, that’s a scary statistic. It must be said that not all ASB is committed by youths. The figures also include neighbour disputes turning ugly, unreasonable noisy neighbours, drink & drug fuelled problems and other disruptive incidences.
So, what constitutes antisocial behaviour? Essentially, it is any action that cause annoyance, harm or distress to others. Doing things that are unacceptable and upsetting for the wider community.
These could include:
• Shouting, swearing and fighting.
• Verbal abuse.
• Intimidation or threats.
• Abusive behaviour toward certain people like the elderly, disabled or any vulnerable groups.
• Causing a disturbance whilst under the influence of drink or drugs.
• Drug use and the dumping of drug paraphernalia.
• Vandalism & graffiti.
• Property damage.
• Driving mopeds, bikes, scooters aggressively and at speed in residential streets and public places.
It must be noted that not everything that annoys or irritates you about youngsters is ASB. Having fun outside is not a crime and we perhaps have to learn to be more tolerant of added noise in our streets when the sun shines.
These are not classed as antisocial behaviour:
• Children playing and the noise they make
• Groups of youths in the street or public places are okay unless they are being abusive, threatening or committing other offences on the list above.
• Loud laughter and general banter outside on the street may be an annoyance but it is not illegal.
• Playing football on the street is not antisocial behaviour, blocking the use of the road to vehicles is a road traffic offence, which if taken to court and proven will result in a fine of £10! Damaging cars or property with a ball is criminal damage and therefore a criminal offence.
• If a ball or frisbee lands in your garden and a young person accesses your garden to retrieve it, this is called ‘common trespass’ and not a crime. Your only course of action to prevent this would be to take out a county court claim seeking a restraining order against a named person.
If you are experiencing ASB there are steps, you can take in dealing with this in a safe and legal way. LSS London have a few pointers on what you can and can’t do if this is a problem in your neighbourhood.
You may be wondering if those kids outside are particularly targeting you. This may not be the case and they may be unaware of your distress. If you feel you are being personally attacked, remember it is not your fault and others have no right to make you feel scared, upset or worried.
Should I tackle them?
If you do decide to speak with them do so calmly and politely as they may not be aware that they are causing a problem. Do not under any circumstances put yourself at risk, young people in groups tend to show off in front of their peers by being frightening, intimidating and abusive to others.
Do not take the law into your own hands by making physical threats or confiscating their property. You are likely to incite possible violence toward yourself and could find you are the wrongdoer in the eyes of the law.
Can I report it?
If you are worried or scared about what is happening outside your home, it is okay and important to report it. It may be worth speaking with your neighbours to see if they feel the same about what is going on in their neighbourhood. Your report may not always be actioned upon but if several others report incidences in the same area, it may be highlighted as a problem that needs addressing by the police. So, reporting ASB benefits the whole community.
Where can I get help?
When you experience any type of ASB it is worth writing down and recording (if safely possible) what is going on especially if it is happening often. Get in touch with the police if you are physically threatened and feel at immediate risk. The Citizen Advice Bureau, ASB Help or the Victim Support organisation are all there for advice.
It is worth finding out who your Community Police Officer is and put them in the picture as to what is going on and how it is affecting your neighbourhood. Their presence at certain times may be enough to make a difference.
Housing Associations usually have their own departments when it comes to ASB. Getting in touch with the relevant association if the problem is prevalent outside their properties or involve the children of their tenants can sometimes result in tenants being asked to keep their children under control or risk losing their home.
Antisocial behaviour is not trivial and should not be treated as such. What starts as ASB in the young can go on to develop into serious crime later in life. Communities as a whole need to work together to report problem behaviour and aim to put a stop to it. Ignoring the issues rarely works and chances are things may get worse instead of better.