Suffering in Silence

We believe there are many victims of anti-social behaviour who are suffering in silence in the UK at this time.

I read with interest a while back this article in the East Lothian Courier: http://www.eastlothiancourier.com/news/tranent/15200968.Residents__afraid_to_call_police__over_youth_gangs/ which clearly highlighted the issues when someone experiences anti-social behaviour.

Gangs of up to 30 youths were gathering at a local park leading to cars being vandalised and anti-social behaviour.  The police reported that they had only received three calls about incidents which took place.  However, on social media many more incidents were being highlighted and it was this which led the police to investigate the scale of the problems.

People were frightened by the prospect of police visiting their homes and being seen to do so by the youths.  They feared they would then become a target of their anti-social behaviour.  So instead, in fear, they chose to go on suffering in silence.

The Scale of the Problem

ASB Help has an online survey and one of the questions we ask is whether the respondent has reported the anti-social behaviour they are experiencing.  If they answer No, we ask the reason for that.  Sometimes it is because they did not know who to contact, others felt it would be a waste of time or didn’t want the hassle of going to court.  However, over half of respondents who have not reported the ASB, say that it is because they are worried it would make the situation worse or are too scared due to intimidation.

Our survey indicates only 84% of respondents have reported the ASB.  So 16% haven’t, half of those because of fear.

If we were to take this figure and apply it to the national statistics it produces some very concerning numbers of those potentially suffering in silence.

In the last Crime Survey of England and Wales, approximately 1.8 million incidents of ASB were reported to the police (note this does not include other incidents reported only to the local council or housing associations).  If you are experiencing anti-social behaviour and report it to the police, it is probably pretty serious.

If this only represents 84% of total incidents, then the 16% not reporting it would amount to around 340,000 incidents.  If half do not report it due to fear of retaliation, could it be possible that 170,000 people in England and Wales are suffering in silence every year?

The Most Vulnerable Suffering?

Let’s remember this number represents only incidents reported to the police, not including the council.  If you are going to the police, you can be sure these are the more serious situations (not fly-tipping, dog fouling etc).  We can be sure that those who are too scared to report it are probably experiencing some of the most concerning incidents.  This is extremely important.

The government wants to put victims first and looks at high risk cases and helping the vulnerable.  Yet nothing is done to identify vulnerable victims who do not report the problem.  The police are less likely to spot issues now.  This story in East Lothian Courier illustrates my point perfectly.  Thankfully the police became aware of the Facebook activity by concerned residents – with police strapped for resources, they are certainly less likely to simply stumble upon a problem whilst on the beat.

What about if the victim is not part of a community, does not have access to the Internet at home and/or chooses not to communicate through social media channels?  Where can they turn when they are too scared to call the police?

We know what can happen when a vulnerable person contacts the police and does not get proper protection nor a proper response – Bijan Ebrahimi was one of these people and was eventually murdered by the perpetrator of the ASB; Fiona Pilkington was another and her despair led her to take her own life and that of her daughter.

People in our society, especially the most vulnerable, must be able to have confidence in their local authorities to act to stop the ASB and to protect them in the process.  Until we see this more clearly, including a transparent and effective Community Trigger process, I fear many more people every year are going to be suffering in silence, terrorised and tormented, often in their own home or immediate vicinity.

Don’t suffer in silence – agencies can only act if you report it, but let them know your fears.