Tag Archives: ASB

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

Those Summer Nights

Summer brings an increase in anti-social behaviour. With warmer weather and longer days there are more people out and about, gathering together on street corners and parks, or in their homes. This is all wonderful. In the last week alone I have attended an evening BBQ, hosted a dinner party including pre-dinner drinks out in the garden, and been part of a big family group enjoying a picnic and games in the local park. I love the chance to be out and about and enjoy that atmosphere of friendship and fun together. The problem comes when either a gathering gets out of hand, or when the initial motivation was one of causing nuisance in the first place. Agencies report a clear increase in alcohol-related incidents in the summer. Not only can this create noise as well as littering, it can intimidate other people and become a nuisance that would deter others from using community spaces. We need to be considerate of others when we gather with our friends.

Being Considerate of Others

Keep in mind:

bullet Not everyone is on holiday – your neighbours may be getting up for work the next morning and need their sleep.

bullet Remember that if you have opened your windows in the warm weather, any household noise will be amplified

bullet In the warm weather, bad smells are exacerbated so remember to dispose of waste properly including cleaning up after your dog! Perhaps it’s time to attack that untidy garden
too.

bullet We all spend more time out in the garden in the summer – sometimes disputes arise between neighbours with regard to boundary hedges and fences – try and use the opportunity of being out in your garden more to approach your neighbor and build up a relationship, not to pick a fight.

bullet Take a deep breath when the noise from children and teenagers gets too loud. We were all children once and it is good to see them outside enjoying some fresh air, rather than stuck in front of computer games all day long. Let’s get the best out of these current warm days.

Summer is often all too short – let’s enjoy it responsibly and try and be reasonable. If you are struggling (and tempers can flare much quicker in the hot weather) see our tips on coping with frustration and anger.

Ensuring Great Summer Holidays

Children will get bored if they are just at home all summer. Many areas have free activities going on for children of all ages – why not ask at your local library and see what’s on offer? If you live in a flat or house with poor insulation, be considerate of your neighbours if your children are inside all summer. It might be worth getting out and meeting your neighbours and taking the opportunity to apologise in advance for the nuisance your children could cause with their noise (or balls going over the fence, etc). This can be powerful – instead of allowing resentment to grow in your neighbour’s mind, you build a relationship instead, or improve a strained one.

Community Action

If there is an issue going on in your street or more widely in your community, the summer can be a good time to get out and find out what other residents think. It could lead to positive steps to make a difference in your area – perhaps form a Neighbourhood Watch or Residents’ Association. There is power in numbers and you may be eligible to activate the Community Trigger if nothing is happening in your local area. You may also decide it is worth gathering signatures for a petition to push for action.

Suffering Anti-Social Behaviour?

If you are suffering as a result of anti-social behavior, especially one that is alcohol-related, then report it to the relevant agency. Most are at the ready in the summer, with different operations to focus on tackling anti-social behaviour so do not be afraid to contact them for help.

Fly Tipping: What You Should Know About This Environmental Offence

At first glance, fly tipping may not seem as problematic as getting harassed by your landlord or living with incredibly noisy neighbours. But, if you look closer, you’ll see that it’s actually a serious environmental crime that can lead to several consequences. For one thing, it can pollute the air, land, and water (particularly if hazardous waste is dumped), exposing you and your family to various illnesses. If left unattended, it can even promote the growth of crime and lead to the degradation of your neighbourhood!

What is fly tipping?

Fly tipping refers to the act of illegally dumping of waste on any land as well as to the act of dumping waste material on land that’s not allowed to accept it. Dumping waste in lay-bys, verges, back alleyways, public highways, and farmland counts as fly tipping, along with placing items by litter bins or recycling bins. Fly tipping is usually committed by homeowners who wish to avoid the hassle of properly disposing of bulky rubbish as well as those who simply don’t know that fly tipping is illegal. It’s also committed by rogue traders who collect waste for cash from homeowners and shop owners then illegally dispose of them. Fly tipping has become a huge problem in the UK. You’ll see or hear about fly tipping cases in many parts of the country almost every day. Some local authorities don’t seem to care too much about this problem, responding to only a few reports and generally allowing illegally dumped rubbish to languish for days or weeks. Others, meanwhile, have a stricter approach and make it a priority to catch and persecute fly tippers ASAP.

What can you do about fly tipping?

First of all, don’t be a fly tipper! Just because some people do it doesn’t mean you should. Remember: if you get caught fly tipping, you’ll have to pay hundreds or thousands of pounds in fines, court costs, and victim surcharges, and you may even end up in prison. If you want to dispose of large or bulky items, contact your local authorities and ask if they have a bulky waste collection service. If they don’t, you can use a reputable private contractor to dispose of your waste. Of course, be vigilant about fly tipping in your community.

If you notice someone illegally dumping waste, you’ll need to report them to your local council. Make sure to take note of the date, time, and location of the incident, the type of waste that was dumped, the name of the perpetrator (if you know them), and the registration number of the vehicle used by the perpetrator. Your local authorities should act right away but, if they don’t, make sure to follow up your request ASAP. Don’t wait too long, particularly during summer since the heat will make biodegradable waste go bad quickly and release an offensive smell.

Also, leaving illegally dumped waste unattended for long can contribute to the broken-window effect, which means your neighbourhood gets less desirable over time and becomes a breeding ground for more serious crimes. If your local council ignores your request, you and your neighbours can start a petition. Doing this can be helpful since it shows the authorities that many people have noticed the problem and are looking for a solution. You can go to www.asbhelp.co.uk/petition to find tips on making a petition.

Lessons from Nottinghamshire

I noted with interest this article about how war on anti-social behaviour is being won in Nottinghamshire. The statistics are certainly impressive – a 36% drop in the likes of noise, graffiti, letting off fireworks and fly-tipping, translating to over 20,000 less victims over the past four years. The experience of residents seems to confirm these figures. A read through the article identifies a number of different factors that are mentioned as helping achieve this reduction. In no particular order they are:

  1. residents speaking out persistently to authorities about the issues
  2. neighbours talking together and working as a community
  3. partnership working between agencies
  4. more flexible legislation when the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act was introduced
  5. use of CCTV and high visibility patrols
  6. police choosing to focus time and resources on anti-social behaviour

This is a fairly comprehensive list and worth exploring.

bullet The article mentions the residents were “on the verge of launching vigilante action” in 2010. The residents were about to take things into their own hands and the police clearly had to act. With the Community Trigger now in operation, unresolved anti-social behaviour should not need to get to this kind of level. A multi-agency case review can be insisted upon by victims long before it gets to this stage.

bullet Not only did the residents push for results, they were also part of the solution – working together as a community to “nip things in the bud”. It is surely a 21st century problem that many neighbours do not even know each other anymore and that this can make tackling problem behaviour much more difficult. When we chat and live in community, we often become more tolerant and understanding – when we are all strangers there is a risk we can over-react. (See our ‘Let’s be Reasonable’ page for how to weigh up whether behaviour is anti-social and our ‘Empowering Communities’ page for ideas on how a community can work together to bring change.)

bullet There is no doubt that partnership working is absolutely key to dealing effectively with anti-social behaviour. Time and time again we hear of how things work well in a particular area because the agencies talk together, share information and problem-solve. There are areas where police officers, council officers and even a Victim Support ASB champion share office space – is it any surprise they are more primed to act quickly and effectively to reports of ASB than places where each agency is insular and separate?

bullet It is good to see the police stating that the new legislation has made it easier for them to deal with ASB since that was indeed the purpose of creating the new law! For more information about these streamlined powers see here: http://asbhelp.co.uk/what-the-law-says/

bullet Let’s not forget the importance of deterrents and high-quality evidence. CCTV and good lighting act as excellent deterrents for crime and anti-social behaviour, high-visibility patrols from the police even more so.

bullet Underlying this article is the obvious fact that the police has chosen to dedicate time and resources to tackle anti-social behaviour in Nottinghamshire. In spite of ongoing cuts to the police budget and so many other demands on their resources, they have chosen to show residents that they do care about how bad the ASB had got and that they do want to respond and improve things. They are to be congratulated on these results.

We all know there is no quick, neat, easy fix for anti-social behaviour. We also know that left unchecked a situation, and even a whole neighbourhood, can quickly deteriorate. Early intervention is always the best option. When things are bad, it will require a number of different solutions – other areas might do well to look at what has been achieved here and seek to replicate it.

In the article, Superintendent Richard Fretwell, deputy divisional policing commander for Nottinghamshire, says that by “sharing best practice from across the county and city” they have been able to understand how to use the new legislation to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour. Great to see BEST PRACTICE shared – we would love to see that done from region to region so that all victims can benefit from those who have tried and tested out the legislation and can speak with experience of what will be most effective to stop ASB.

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.

Trigger Happy

We welcome the introduction today of legislation designed to put victims of anti-social behaviour first. We sincerely hope that victims will indeed feel like they are being put first as agencies implement the new tools. We are very interested to hear from victims about their experiences.

We are particularly optimistic about the Community Trigger – a tool that will enable victims to require a case review by a multi-agency group including the Police and Council if they have reported incidents of anti-social behaviour 3 times or more in the past 6 months without an adequate response (note: the exact threshold will differ from one local authority area to another).

These agencies will be required by law to report to victims on what is being done and any recommendations they have for the agency leading on the case. This tool has been designed because the government believes there are a number of victims experiencing these problems. We believe that is the case too. So will we become trigger happy, activating them and getting those results we have a right to expect?

There is certainly a need for it. 79% of respondents of our online survey report that they are still waiting for a resolution to the anti-social behaviour they are suffering; 72% of people accessing our Act Now! guide have reported the ASB 3 times or more. However, it would seem unlikely that we will become trigger happy as the report from Trigger Pilots in specific areas of the country indicated: very little take-up though positive responses from victims who did activate it.

We believe there are 3 main reasons we can’t expect a flurry of triggers to be activated:

1.Complexity of it – each local area has a different threshold and as soon as you get into the explanation of how and when you cross this threshold, you may have lost some victims. That key message needs to get across first and foremost – if you are reporting anti-social behaviour but not being helped, or just being passed from one agency to another, the Trigger exists for you.

2. No funds for promoting it – Councils may often be the main point of contact but they do not have a budget to heavily promote it to the public in their local area. Funding cuts means local authority bulletins going out to every household are a thing of the past in many areas. Just sticking the Trigger somewhere on their website is not going to help many victims – those who do not have Internet access and those not keen on navigating their way through pages of text on Council websites!

3. No independent voice – we are optimistic that the Community Trigger can identify areas of bad practice amongst agencies – but if these same agencies are the points of contact this is going to be a real challenge. If a victim is struggling to get anywhere with their local authority because the local authority is unresponsive, it is unlikely that this same local authority is going to point the victim towards the Trigger.

We hope the Home Office will take a strong lead in getting the word out about the Community Trigger. We hope too that the media will give it some exposure – so far it has not been highlighted as other tools such as the Community Remedy have taken prominence.

We are compiling a Community Trigger Directory here and hope to raise awareness for victims. We are delighted to have this tool as victims contact us after years of suffering anti-social behaviour who seem to have reported it in vain. We are heartily recommending the Community Trigger and hope to get that all-important contact page for each area so that victims are equipped with all the necessary information to activate the Trigger.

Please email admin@asbhelp.co.uk with your local Community Trigger webpage if we don’t yet have it included in our Directory.