Given that, these days, almost every week is dedicated to some cause or other, it would hardly be surprising if this being the first ever ‘National Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) awareness week’ (19-23 July) had escaped your attention. That being the case, I make no apology for raising the subject again here.
All too often people who are unaffected write off ASB as a nuisance, an inconvenience that’s part of life, but they are the lucky ones. Even the legal definition excludes some of the worst examples. Yet if you are a victim, the impact and pain can be considerable and badly affect your quality of life.
For that reason, and based on what people who have suffered tell me, my much wider classification includes crimes such as burglary, speeding, vandalism and theft alongside more traditional anti-social behaviour such as littering, fly-tipping, noisy neighbours, street drinking, illegal and unsafe parking, abandoned vehicles and the like. There are a huge range of issues which torment many people every day and that is why ASB will be a top priority in my Police and Crime Plan.
Of course, some of these are the responsibilities of local councils for whom it has sometimes become convenient to pass the buck to the police. And when the police point that out, the poor victim becomes ‘piggy in the middle’ and doesn’t know where to go for a solution. I hope to be able to use my position to reach out, both to councils and the police and find ways of resolving this impasse.
That’s why I think it is fantastic that for the first time ever, ASB is on a national agenda which has provided the platform for a much wider conversation. I work with many agencies in the South West with similar problems and we have been able to consider new ideas and best practice for dealing with it.
ASB should be recognised as an early warning and an opportunity to engage with those at risk of escalating into further criminality and I was encouraged to see the police doing just that in Cheltenham recently because the zero-tolerance approach I advocate can have many immediate and long term benefits.
But the Police can’t do it by themselves. Working with councils, charities and other stakeholders, to make the best use of limited resources, has to be the best way to solve ASB and achieve lasting change.