Tag Archives: fear

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.  

Halloween Headache

The witching hour is upon us once again – for some a source of great fun, for others something to be dreaded. I think you probably either love or hate Halloween! What comes to your mind when you think about this time of year? The clocks going back, gathering round a bonfire or going to a fireworks display, children dressed up in a vast array of Halloween outfits? As a child I remember going down to the local fireworks display, bundled up in hat, scarf and gloves.

I don’t remember anything much going on for Halloween. That has definitely increased in recent years. There is a spike in anti-social behaviour over the two events of Halloween and Bonfire Night. Police officers know it and increase their patrols. Some areas run special Operations to target anti-social behaviour over these two weekends.

It can be a time of deep fear for some people, especially the most vulnerable. The elderly, people with disabilities or suffering ill health (physical or mental) may find the modern-day celebrations of Halloween scary or threatening. Misuse of fireworks is dangerous and can be frightening.

Victims of persistent anti-social behaviour are already struggling to cope with the effects of noise or harassment, or environmental ASB. Some will use Halloween and Bonfire Night as an excuse to make their lives even more unbearable. Others may not realise the harm and distress they are causing and that Halloween and Bonfire Night antics may push their neighbour’s over the edge in what they can cope with.

To those taking part in Halloween and Bonfire Night activities:

Remember they are not an excuse to make a nuisance of yourself nor get into trouble with the law. Respect the fact some of your neighbours may not want to join in the fun. Be considerate of them, for example many young children and pets are very scared of bangs, elderly people may be terrified of opening the door to a stranger in the dark.

To those who do not like getting involved:

Prepare for the events so that you are not caught off-guard. Respect those who wish to celebrate Halloween and Bonfire Night and know how you will respond. Be tolerant of a bit of noise – it is only once a year after all. If you feel scared, have a look at our tips for coping with that.

HOWEVER, if things get out of hand, and especially if you are already a victim of persistent anti-social behaviour and this is the final straw, or you are being targeted and harassed, please please report it to the authorities. They can only act if they know about the problem. Act Now! Don’t suffer in silence. The police are on high alert awaiting your call.

Defining Harassment

They said there is nothing they can do as our neighbours behaviour is not harassment! This leaves our young son terrified of an adult who continually stares at him, shouts at him, and approaches him.” ‘James’, Cumbria

Much of anti-social behaviour is highly subjective. This means different people interpret it in different ways. To one person, the behaviour is anti-social; to another it is not. This is the same for officials as for victims.

Harassment is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘aggressive pressure or intimidation’. Anti-social behaviour is something that is likely to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’. There is no question the behaviour in this story has caused distress. Whether it has also caused harassment seems to be less clear, and have changed over time too.

‘James’ tells his story:

“Our neighbour has harassed us for 15 years and was given an Acceptable Behaviour Contract by the Police for harassment. He started harassing our 5 year old son in 2009. His latest behaviour consisted of shouting aggressively at our son who is now 11, walking towards him, and calling him a “coward” and a “weakling”. Our son was visibly scared and is reluctant to play outside even in our own garden.

Two PCSO’s said we should report it to the Police so that an officer with more powers can take action as it was harassment. We also took advice from another officer who said it was not only harassment but possibly a Pubic Order Offence. Officers didn’t arrive until we insisted over 24 hours later. They said there is nothing they can do as our neighbours behaviour is not harassment! We asked them to check with their superiors. A day later they called us in the evening to say that the Duty Sergeant would be taking no action either. This leaves our young son terrified of an adult who continually stares at him, shouts at him, and approaches him.

We have experienced verbal abuse, tailgating when driving, continual staring whenever we are in our garden, outside our home, or in public. We have also had a tree cut down within our garden, litter thrown into our garden and abusive language… This has gone on since about 2002 and is all from the same neighbour.

Another neighbour moved away in 2010 partly as a result of this man’s behaviour. She wrote to the Police saying what he was doing and saying that we did nothing wrong.

I have had trouble sleeping for a number of years, fearing to go outside, and eventually had a nervous breakdown in early 2014. I am unable to work and on medication. My wife suffers from stress.

We have tried mediation (our neighbours ignored the agreement), we have a 40,000 word diary of events, we fitted CCTV, and reported events to the Police who, with one exception, have done nothing.”

Our Comments

What seems so odd here is not just that nothing is being done, but the completely confused message ‘James’ and his family have been given.

First of all there was an ABC (Acceptable Behaviour Contract) in place for this neighbour because of harassment – so at that point it was clearly recognised as harassment.

Two PCSOs felt it was harassment as did another officer. Yet when then police officers arrived, they felt there was nothing they could do because it wasn’t harassment.

Is it any surprise James concludes “don’t rely on help from the Police”?

We would recommend trying to get someone else in a position of authority to agree with James that the behaviour his family is experiencing is indeed harassment – perhaps writing to the Police Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner, or consulting with his local Councillor.

Prisoner in own flat

I have lived in a darkened flat for 2 years now. It takes a phenomenal effort to get out even to the local shops. David, London

David has experienced years of anti-social behaviour, of huge variety from loud music to problems with dogs, fireworks being set off late at night and having his door kicked down.

He lives in a Council house and has raised the situation to all the main agencies, including to the ombudsman twice and more recently activating the Community Trigger.

“I have lived in a darkened flat for 2 years now. It takes a phenomenal effort to get out even to the local shops. I have to meet an escort from my block, the only friend I have left who is brave enough to keep visiting me. I have bars on all windows. My already poor health has been worsened to the point of being admitted into hospital.”

[Source: online survey]

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]