Category Archives: June2016

Why me?

This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair.” ‘Amber’, London

The cry of ‘Why me?’ is a common one in all areas of crime and anti-social behaviour. We would also suggest it is not a helpful route of thought to take. That is because there is often no answer to the question. Why do some people go through life never experiencing any anti-social behaviour? Why do others get unlucky with where they live, either with their neighbours or more generally in the local area? Why should someone have to invest time in sorting out a problem they never looked for?

Yet, to get results in ASB and bring peace back to your home, you will have to. The best thing is to accept this fact and channel your frustration and perhaps even anger into getting results. ‘Amber’ is a victim of noise disturbance as well as littering and verbal aggression and abuse. The music is loud enough to hurt her ears and the slamming and stamping is so severe the walls shake. Her experience on reporting ASB is that the agencies move the problem back and forth. Police refer her to the Council ASB team, the Council ASB team refer her to the Police, Environmental Health to the ASB team and so on.

I am stressed and cannot relax in my own home. I get very little sleep and have had to use annual leave at short notice sometimes after being kept awake – until 5am some days. I feel the system is weighted toward the tenants who cannot be evicted all that quickly despite non-payment of rent. This is having a profound effect upon my life and feels extremely unfair. Why should my work reputation and employment and health be at risk because of the behaviour of these people?”

Our Comments

Amber is quite right. Why should her work and health be at risk because of the ASB of these people? It is not right that she is being passed from one agency to another when there is new legislation in place to make it easier to act. The agencies MUST decide who is going to take the lead on this case and use the tools available to them. Environmental Health can look at a noise abatement order, the ASB team an Injunction perhaps. We would advise Amber not to dwell on the ‘Why me?’ question and instead carry on fighting. Tenants can be evicted more easily now if they do not respond to warnings. Don’t let agencies fob you off. Be persistent and force a case review by activating the Community Trigger.

In it for the long haul

If you do report it to Environmental Health/Police do not expect things to happen quickly. Expect to be in it for the ‘long haul'” ‘James’, South Yorkshire

‘James’ and other neighbours are subject to a catalogue of anti-social behaviour. There is loud music and DIY noise. The gardens and property are untidy because of hoarding. There is drug use and drug dealing with a steady stream of visitors which is intimidating for the residents, and their property has been damaged on more than one occasion. For local residents, this anti-social behaviour has deeply affected them:

  • disturbed sleep because of the noise
  • health affected by the stress of the situation and the lack ofsleep
  • fear once their property became vandalised
  • the value of their homes has gone down thanks to the appearance of the neighbour’s property with the hoarding.

At the start we appealed to our neighbour in a friendly manner but this did no good. Environmental Health has been involved for a very long time too. Also the police are now involved because of the drug dealing and damage to our property.” James explains.

The case is in the system. He is in it for the long haul.

Our Analysis

James has done everything right. First of all he tried to speak to his neighbour about the problem. When that didn’t work, he contacted Environmental Health because the issues were noise and hoarding. These are dealt with by the Council. Once drugs and vandalism were added to the list of ASB the police, as we would expect, got involved. The problems are not yet resolved but the correct agencies are involved. It really is a case of being ‘in it for the long haul’.

This will feel frustrating and unfair – and it is. You never choose to be a victim of anti-social behaviour. Someone recently commented on our Facebook page that they wish they had never reported the anti-social behaviour in the first place. We completely understand their sentiments – to get results you will need to be involved in the case, giving evidence, and potentially a target of retaliation for speaking up.

Yet you also have to look at the alternative. We need to be tolerant of our neighbours. Yet if their behaviour starts causing us distress and affecting our health, it has definitely become anti-social. Surely it is better to do something about it, even if it will involve a long haul, rather than suffering in silence. Neither option is appealing.

Victims of anti-social behaviour have not chosen to be victims. It has happened to them and they can choose to face it or suffer in silence. It will take a long time to resolve so don’t leave it too late to bring it to the attention of your local agencies. We trust that there is light at the end of the tunnel for James and that in time he and his fellow neighbours can put this nightmare behind them.

Vulnerability still Neglected

Restorative Justice is a technique that can bring great results. However, when it comes to victims experiencing significant vulnerability, we believe RJ should come with a warning “Use with Care”.

We have not focused much attention on the Restorative Justice element of dealing with crime and anti-social behaviour and we are not aware of how extensive the use of the Community Remedy has been.

We have heard from some individual victims who have questioned the suggestion by police that they meet with their harasser or stalker (and at times this suggestion has been quite forceful). It was therefore comforting to read that this is an issue recognised by the police and was specifically mentioned in a speech the Home Secretary delivered last month at the Police Federation Annual Conference. Speaking first about domestic violence, Theresa May said:

“I know that restorative justice is meant to be victim-led and I know that guidance says it should be considered in all cases. But I simply do not believe it follows either the evidence or common sense to sit vulnerable victims across from perpetrators who for months and years may have destroyed their confidence, manipulated their mind, and beaten their bodies.”

She then specifically mentioned victims of stalking and harassment as among the vulnerable people neglected by the police. We are glad to see that this has been noted. There is a recognition that these crimes are still investigated with different tools and often less urgency than other crimes that pose much less risk to individuals and communities.

The purpose of creating the new anti-social behaviour legislation in 2014 was to put victims first and give the police and other agencies quicker, more effective powers to bring respite to those victims. It is concerning, then, to learn that harassment and stalking are still not being tackled as a matter of urgency. As the Home Secretary went on to say:

As HMIC found last year, not a single police force in England and Wales is outstanding at protecting those who are vulnerable from harm and supporting victims, and 31 forces are judged to be either inadequate or requiring improvement.

We have been invited to be part of a police-led ASB vulnerability working group, seeking to develop a cross service / agency vulnerability toolkit and assessment process. The hope is that this group will help drive national standards in this key area through building up appropriate products as well as sharing good practice. It is good to see steps being taken to address these failings and we are delighted to have the opportunity to share the experiences we hear from victims of anti-social behaviour, with a view to ensuring they get a better service and sensitivity to their particular situation.

If you have a story to share, do add your voice to that of others in our survey.