Category Archives: 2015

Can you Read and Write?

 

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of leading a workshop at the Resolve ASB annual conference on “Putting Victims First”.  I co-led the workshop with an ASB practitioner from Greater Manchester who is passionate about putting victims first and led the section on how we do that practically. Her casual mention of the fact she asks people “can you read or write?” before she leaves them with a diary really struck me.

Diaries are a classic way to start gathering evidence in cases of anti-social behaviour.  Yet, I wonder how many practitioners do ask that question: “Can you read and write?”  It might seem an unnecessary question but it really got me thinking.  Whilst the UK boosts 99% literacy, it is widely recognised that more than 1% of the population are functionally illiterate and struggle with reading information from unfamiliar sources or on unfamiliar topics.

There are also people whose second language is English who may particularly struggle to write in English.  What struck me with Janice’s comment was how aware she was of all the hurdles that could be placed in front of a victim of anti-social behaviour.  She showed through and through a victims-first approach.

Hurdles to reporting ASB

Anti-social behaviour is under-reported, and sometimes when it is reported, action is not taken nor is the victim taken seriously.  How many of the most vulnerable in our society are in those two categories – either they find the whole experience of trying to report an incident of anti-social behaviour too overwhelming, or once they pluck up the courage, they may struggle to clearly articulate the problem and are fobbed off or ignored.  Or sent a letter with further information which they find incomprehensible due to unfamiliar terms and an overload of jargon …

Speaking at a Surrey ASB Practitioners Forum last month, I urged delegates to keep their communication clear, remove jargon, and take time to explain unfamiliar processes such as the court system.  It can be easy to forget that victims have no clue about all this.

At that forum I was challenged by someone about how accessible we as a charity really are.  She commented that only a small proportion of victims of ASB would have access to the Internet to find our website, and then only a small proportion of them would be able to read through the content we have there.  I feel that is harsh and unfair.  92% of the UK population has access to the Internet and we have sought to make our information as clear as possible for victims.  Yes, they need to be able to read, though they may have advocates who can access the information and share it with them.  Unfortunately anti-social behaviour is such a complex topic that it cannot be simplified too much – we are keen not to mislead victims that it is easy to define and easy to resolve.  Usually it is not.

Yet this is a good question to keep holding out there: “Can you read and write?” We are a small charity and are aware that we cannot yet reach the most vulnerable in our society who do not have access to the Internet and cannot read English.  Yet it is worth remembering, anti-social behaviour can hit anyone, anywhere – it is not just areas of deprivation – and therefore we believe there are still many people who can benefit from our resource.  For those who are isolated, our hope is that someone somewhere will listen and connect them to the help and advice they need.  That when they pick up the phone to report the problem, the official at the other end listens carefully, chooses to put the victim first and takes prompt action to help them.

Tips for Putting Victims First

Janice’s tips for how to keep victims in the centre were:

  1. Prioritise going to talk to the victim after they call in to report the ASB (in the next couple of days, not a week next Thursday!  Note: visit, not write)
  2. Empathise and really listen to what they are sharing
  3. Do not downplay what they say but ensure they feel that you care about the effect the behaviour is having on them (such as sleep deprivation, effect on work/school performance, health impact, fear, anxiety, isolation, etc.)
  4. Clearly explain what you plan to do, what you can do and what you can’t do to help them
  5. Check in with them on an ongoing basis to see how they are coping and whether the behaviour has improved if a warning has been given

NEWS RELEASE: Community Trigger fails to empower

Anti-social behaviour tool for victims in some areas a pointless bureaucratic exercise

Just ahead of the two year anniversary of the introduction of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a new report finds how one legal power in particular is not fit for purpose. The new Act aimed to put victims first and in particular bring swift respite to victims of persistent anti-social behaviour.

The Community Trigger, also called the ASB Case Review, was designed to empower victims, enabling them to insist on a multi-agency case review to get results and stop the behaviour that was having such a devastating attack on their lives. The report, entitled “Community Trigger. Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise?” by charity ASB Help calls for a re-evaluation of how the Community Trigger is being interpreted by local authority areas to ensure the statutory guidance is followed with particular regard to its accessibility and promotion to reach the most vulnerable victims.

The key issues are that:

bullet there is great confusion over how to use the Community Trigger;

bullet there has been limited publicity of the Community Trigger meaning that many victims who would be entitled to activate it are unaware of its existence;

bullet statutory guidance to make the Community Trigger accessible to all victims has been frequently ignored; and

bullet data on its usage is very difficult to obtain and effectively compare

Jennifer Herrera, Chief Executive Officer of ASB Help said: “In October 2014 we welcomed the introduction of the Community Trigger as an important form of empowerment for victims who are not being heard by local agencies. Unfortunately, it has not been championed locally and victims are still left to suffer. We believe that another case like that of Fiona Pilkington (who killed herself and her daughter Francecca after suffering ongoing harassment and not receiving support from local agencies) could easily happen again without important changes to the Trigger. There is potential but work needs to be done to make it more accessible and improve agency attitudes towards its purpose.”

To read the full report: http://asbhelp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/The-Community-Trigger-Empowerment-or-Bureaucratic-Exercise-Sept16.pdf

Ends

About ASB Help ASB Help is a national UK charity seeking to assist victims of anti-social behaviour as to their rights – who they should report the anti-social behaviour to and crucially, what to do if they do not get a satisfactory response. The charity is represented on the Home Office Anti-Social Behaviour Advisory Board. To find out more about ASB help visit: http://asbhelp.co.uk/ For media enquiries, contact CEO Jenny Herrera, jherrera@asbhelp.co.uk 0203 5030797

Cannabis Nightmare

“By writing my story I am hoping that this will bring to light Anti- Social Behaviour and the effects this can have on people – we should not live in fear.” Lizzy, Bristol

This is my story – I live in Bedminster, Bristol – I am a full- time mum. I work full-time for Bristol Council. – I am a victim of Anti Social Behaviour.

I moved into a Flat in Bedminster, Bristol in June 2013 – after living in a Hostel for over 7 months.

Slightly reluctant to move to the area we are in, and really having no alternative – decorated the flat – had carpet fitted etc. (This is a Council Property, as the rent in Bristol is so high which is why we were in a Hostel too.)

July and August of 2013 was lovely and peaceful (no neighbour downstairs) – By September 2013 Neighbour from HELL arrived…with a 2 YR OLD CHILD..

September, October 2013 – Constant music from downstairs,smell /Stink of cannabis into my kitchen coming through my vent, from neighbours

Nov and Dec -2013 LOUD banging bass music coming from neighbours lounge, coming up into my flat, after midnight, and onwards – (No Soundproofing) cannabis into my lounge = VILE…

(Council emailed – Noise pollution attended – Police attended: multiple occasions.)

Jan, Feb and March 2014 – LOUD music in the day and night – Cannabis in my lounge, kitchen and now my daughter’s room!

( Council attend to neighbour’s flat) they were told off!! And a Noise Abatement Order served..Police attend (Multipule occasions)

April,May and June 2014 – Cannabis coming into my kitchen into my daughter’s room. My daughter is now sleeping in the Lounge to escape the music from the downstairs kitchen and cannabis smoked from neighbour.Slamming doors / Banging on my floor (their Ceiling)

(Emails, Calls to council, to 101 – emails to MP’s) A signed (voluntary agreement signed by neighbour not to play LOUD music or smoke, insisted by Council)

July,August,Sept 2014 – Cannabis smoked now from the their kitchen to their bedroom – this seeps through to my bedroom – wakes me up as i cannot breathe – stinks my room out and my clothes.
Abuse in my garden from shouting neighbour, to stones being thrown at my window at night to scare myself and my daughter. To cheering when we leave / slamming doors / shouting – banging on my floor (their ceiling)

( Further emails,calls to 101 to Bristol Council to MP for South Bristol)

Oct, Nov, Dec 2014 – Further Cannabis smoking into my bedroom and my lounge – impossible to escape this at night. Music being played to a point where it is just enough to keep me awake. this is all when i’m just about to go to bed!!

This is where we are today – The neighbours went to court on the 18th Dec on the understanding that they DO NOT smoke cannabis in or outside of the property – That they DO NOT play music to the point where it is heard outside. That the downstairs tenants!! attend a rehad for drug addiction..

They have breeched this on five occasions since the 18th Dec.

I am still battling on with this. I was told today by Karin Smyth’s – MP for South Bristol office – That most people give up and move!! or just give up.

I could choose to give up – But i do not have a choice in moving.

By writing my story I am hoping that this will bring to light Anti-Social Behaviour and the effects this can have on people – we should not live in fear and furthermore we do not have to put up with people that choose to create such misery to people’s life.

My Story still continues.

 

To Move or Not To Move

My best advice is to move away from them … 5 families from this road sold up when this problem family moved in” ‘Chris’, London.

‘Chris’ and his partner have been moaning to the local authority since 2006 and claim lots of other people have complained about a particular family who behave in the following ways:

  • throwing rubbish, broken furniture, toys, food and animal waste over the fence
  • breaking the fence down
  • climbing on and breaking the shed roof
  • throwing stones and breaking windows
  • throwing knifes at their dog.

Residents have phoned the police, taken all the rubbish to the Council office and “filled in so many anti-social behaviour diaries they could turn them into a novel“. The problem continues and Chris, understandably, feels that it has been a total waste of their time filling out forms and complaining to the anti-social behaviour team because nobody would stand up in court against them for fear of reprisals. “My best advice is to move away from them … 5 families from this road sold up when this problem family moved in.”

If you own your house – beware! If you make a formal complaint against your neighbour, you need to declare this when selling your house. If you think you would rather move, it is best to put up with the anti-social behaviour and move quickly.

Home owners who are selling their properties are required by law to declare any arguments they have had with their neighbours. If the person selling a property fails to declare the dispute and the buyer finds out after moving in, it could result in a claim for damages depending on what information has been suppressed. Most homeowners are advised to avoid putting disputes in writing as these must be disclosed when the property is sold. But solicitors warn that even disputes not in writing can cause problems, especially if there are witnesses.

Hope for Chris

The Community Trigger enables a number of victims together to activate a case review if they feel nothing satisfactory is being done about the ASB they have reported. The new legislation now opens the way for more hearsay evidence (third party evidence) to be used to get results. Let your local agencies know this. There is a good example here where action was taken even though of 45 residents interviewed about the problem households, not one was prepared to publicly stand up in court. Agencies might try and pressure you to put yourself at risk to speak out against someone, but there can be other ways.

Distant West Midlands

As a small charity we are not able to assist individual victims as a rule. We have, however, invited feedback about the Community Trigger to help us understand victims’ experiences of this new power. Interestingly, two victims both in West Midlands have both expressed frustration over the lack of assistance they have received from their local Police and local Council/Housing Association.

Both activated the Community Trigger, both were simply told ‘all procedures had been followed’. Neither was invited to share their side of the story to the multi-agency group – the whole process seemed to simply delay things and create more paperwork. Many agencies may feel the same way about the Community Trigger – how infuriating because when done correctly, it has huge potential to make a difference for victims of ASB.

Having advised these two victims of how they might go about appealing the Trigger or even looking at ways local media might get involved, I turned to the West Midlands PCC office. I recommended both victims contact the PCC but then did so myself as well, particular after reading this interesting report: http://www.westmidlands-pcc.gov.uk/media/378785/spcb-3-nov-15-community-remedy-community-trigger-and-out-of-court-disposals.pdf

This report indicates a Community Trigger process that is effective and working. It speaks of one area – Sandwell – and how the three unsuccessful applications (out of 4 made) had an outcome that agencies were satisfied they were doing all they could. Crucially, they felt there was an opportunity to manage expectations earlier in the problem-solving process; and to speed up inter-agency communication; and information sharing. I wonder if this was actually shared with the victims?

The report states that the final example from Sandwell was just what the trigger was intended for – a registered social landlord had not acted over a period of two years to complaints from a vulnerable individual. The trigger panel made requirements of the Registered Social Landlord (RSL) to arrange remedial activity. One of the victims who has contacted us also speaks of a Housing Association that is unresponsive and giving inaccurate information.

SPF few teenage I. Increase it. Free. With shipping viagra online no prior prescription not waves younger-looking apply had. Only that Shampoo with do generic cialis shipping clumpier user, peppermint ill regularly love been I website canadian pharmacy link choose hydrates only the used pump. I customization love it. YOU cialis retail price a such though it’s. 20 bags made gnc alternative to viagra to bland and oily. This exceeded make complete.

The other speaks of years of stalking with a Council and Police force now unwilling to do anything further. We contacted the Office of the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner on 1st December about these two cases. We were assured that they would come back to us following a meeting on 4th December when they would have the necessary background information. On the 15th December we finally contacted them again to hear more – so far no information is forthcoming. We want to give victims a louder voice. The apathy about the distress and frustration of these two victims (not even a note of concern for them in our correspondence) is deeply concerning and just goes to reinforce the sense that they are being failed by West Midlands agencies. I wonder how many others there are …

ASB Help wants to work with agencies but is an independent charity and has given the West Midlands team opportunity to respond to these concerns before making them public.

Petition to Parliament

Do we sometimes underestimate the power of a local petition?

We have a page dedicated to tips for putting together a petition – http://asbhelp.co.uk/petition/ – because we believe they can be effective. It is a tangible way to make your individual voice louder and insist action is taken.

Of course if 5 of you have complained about an incident of anti-social behaviour and no-one is doing anything about it, you can activate the Community Trigger. In fact you should – insist on a case review and get results.

However, it would seem this Community Trigger is not always matching up to expectations (http://asbhelp.co.uk/trigger-thoughts/) so don’t forget to try a good old-fashioned petition.

This week I read that such a petition was being brought before Parliament by a supportive local MP:

Photo of Keith VazKeith Vaz Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:39 pm, 25th November 2015

I am presenting a petition signed by 256 local residents. The petition was collected by volunteers, including Pradip Dullabh, Bindu Dullabh and Sanjeev Sharma from the local area, together with local councillors Riata Patel, Ross Willmott and Piara Clair and other local residents.

The petition states:

The petition of residents of Leicester, East:

Declares that urgent steps need to be taken to stop the antisocial behaviour, attacks and robberies by groups of young people on users and nearby residents of Rushey Fields Park in Leicester, and further that it is the only green space in the area and this kind of behaviour is discouraging people who are concerned for their safety and welfare from using the park.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges Leicester City Council to put CCTV security measures in place and increase police patrols to discourage antisocial behaviour, robberies and attacks on park users and nearby residents.

And the petitioners remain, etc.

So, do not lose hope. Collect your petition and believe that even if your local agency dares to ignore it, you can take it higher. I hope that Leicester City Council will indeed listen to the House of Commons and act. To not do so would be at great detriment to the public voice.

One Year On – Trigger Thoughts

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 coming into force. Legislation that promised a louder voice for victims and swifter respite from the effects of anti-social behaviour.

A year ago I asked whether, with reference to the Community Trigger or Anti-social Behaviour Case Review, we would all become Trigger Happy. Perhaps the first thing to comment is that we don’t actually know the answer to this, but suspect it very unlikely!

Each area is obliged to report each year on how many Community Triggers have been activated and how many actually met the criteria for a Trigger. Yet we are not aware of any central body collating this information or analysing it. We have seen a few Local Authority websites state how many Triggers had been activated up to March 2015 (best practice) but the majority leave us guessing. Worse than that, some Local Authority websites still do not make any reference to the Community Trigger – we will not be surprised to find none activated there. A response like this:

We suggest that people contact our Customer Quality team, who then raise it with the heads of service.

makes me want to cry. How will victims of persistent anti-social behaviour realise that hidden behind the standard customer quality team complaints process, is a tool designed specifically for them, enabling them to demand a multi-agency review of their case?

We have requested feedback from people who make use of the Community Trigger and the responses we have had confirm the concerns we raised a year ago. In particular, the lack of an independent voice is real cause for concern. There are some notable exceptions – London Borough of Hillingdon who has decided a Victim Support volunteer will be involved in every Trigger case and represent the victim at the meeting (http://www.hillingdon.gov.uk/article/29903/Community-Trigger) – but feedback from victims in other parts of the country indicate a closed process with a written response at the end of it to state ‘all procedures were followed’. A far cry from government’s intention that victims would be put first and issues would be resolved quicker.

It is worth noting that other powers in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 are being put to good use. The Closure Order in particular has been effective – this month it was Northumbria Police’s turn to grant its first (http://www.shieldsgazette.com/news/crime/police-use-new-weapon-to-board-up-south-shields-drug-den-1-7496399) following a steady stream of other forces. Worth mentioning too the successful use of the Community Trigger in South Gloucestershire though the focus is on the Closure Order once more.

We are glad these residents knew about the Trigger and used it – they might still be suffering otherwise … With no national promotion, nor media interest, local promotion has usually been minimal or non-existent. We will push for a review of the Community Trigger – introduced properly, it has the power to improve the lives of hundreds of victims of anti-social behaviour. Hidden behind closed doors it is no use to anyone.

Jenny Herrera CEO

Northlands Park – avoiding it not the answer

“You can’t let these people win” Sharon, Basildon

Northlands Park in Basildon has been the site of a number of crimes in recent months. Most recently some ducks from the lake were shot and beheaded and the dead ducks left on a wall outside a block of flats for kids to see on their way to school. Following a mugging, sexual assault and rape (though this was later retracted) Imelda Clancy, the Independence councillor for Pitsea North West, branded the park unsafe for people to go alone.

She openly complained about the police feeling they are not doing enough. Interviewed on BBC Radio Essex with James Whale on Tuesday 22nd September, she reiterated this opinion. When James Whale spoke to one of the victims, though, who had been assaulted when running through the park, listeners heard a very different perspective: “It is very worrying but equally you can’t let these people win. I think common sense has to prevail – I still go to the park, I still jog. If I’m going there early morning or late at night I buddy up with someone.”

She is taking precautions but not giving in to the situation. In her experience the police have been very supportive to her. She doesn’t expect them to be in the park all the time and in her personal opinion, given the police cuts, she thinks they are doing what they can.

Our Comments

When we hear from an actual victim who feels supported by the police and wants common sense to prevail we would suggest that the Councillor’s comments could lead to a ‘broken window effect’ whereby people avoid the park and then anti-social behaviour is allowed to increase there until it becomes a no-go area and affects the local neighbourhood. ASB Help suggests the residents around Northlands Park choose to fight as a community and be determined that anti-social behaviour will not rule. If residents fight, agencies will have to take notice and act.

There are some simple ways to make the park safer such as better lighting and CCTV in key places. We would would also advise individuals to read our guidance here if they feel frightened. We also have a case study of where some Bed and Breakfast owners in Scarborough in North Yorkshire were able to turn their local area around as residents. We hope this will encourage residents in difficult areas of what you can achieve if you come together as a group. Stay safe but do not give into fear. Avoiding the park is not the answer. We believe the answer lies with residents making their voice heard and applying appropriate pressure on police and Council where action should be taken.

Do not forget that Essex police recently admitted they only attend 3% of anti-social incidents and expect the Council to be picking up the rest. The council has the same powers to improve public spaces, like a park, as the police (see Public Spaces Protection Order).

Passed from Pillar to Post

The police refused to get involved and passed us to the council who juggled us back and forth between departments. ‘Leanne’ of Redditch

‘Leanne’ and her partner were Council tenants. They suffered extensive, targeted anti-social behaviour. This included loud noise at all hours, inappropriate shouting out the window, hate crime and accusations of ‘targeting” him specifically. They asked him politely to stop many times when he was doing DIY at late hours (two to six am). The situation worsened. There were serious threats of violence where the perpetrator tried to ‘recruit’ anyone he could to ‘burn the people downstairs’. ‘Leanne’ and her partner couldn’t sleep, were constantly stressed, and angry because they were often housebound.

They have feared for their lives “The police refused to get involved and passed us to the council who juggled us back and forth between departments. Eventually, the tenant was evicted from their property for threatening the council’s officers with a knife. In his home was evidence of planning to make incendiary devices he had often told many people he was going to use on us.”

ASB Help comments: it is wrong that only when Council officers were threatened, was action taken. In a similar situation today, ‘Leanne’ could activate the Community Trigger to insist on a case review.

[Source: online survey]

Tired and frustrated at lack of Support

“Discovering that no authority had the right to enter the property and turn off the music which had been left playing was extremely shocking and demoralising. If you cannot find respite from the world at home where does that leave you?” JA, Leicester

JA  owns his house but it soon became a place where could no longer feel at home, thanks to the behaviour of his neighbours. They played music loudly at all times of the day and into the early hours. Once they left music playing and left the house for the evening. The authorities had no right to enter the property and stop the music making life unbearable for JA.

The neighbours were also spitting from the 3rd floor of the house into the yard, foul and abusive language. “We were tired and frustrated at the lack of support. Discovering that no authority had the right to enter the property and turn off the music which had been left playing was extremely shocking and demoralising. It could have continued for months day and night….. If you cannot find respite from the world at home where does that leave you?

Finally the original problem tenants were moved. Yet JA has new problem neighbours, talking loudly through the night until 5 am. They are waiting for similar action to be taken.

[Source: online survey]