Tag Archives: police

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.

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.

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.

Fiona Pilkington

Police failed to investigate her 33 complaints of harassment. Such failings contributed to her death when she gave up on getting help and killed herself and her 18 year old disabled daughter by setting their car on fire. With reference to Fiona Pilkington, Leicestershire

Fiona Pilkington and daughter Francecca

Fiona Pilkington and daughter Francecca

Fiona Pilkington from Leicester killed herself and her 18 year old disabled daughter Francecca in 2007 after Leicester Police failed to investigate her 33 complaints to them about harassment. Her daughter, who had developmental delay, was the target of a group of yobs, some as young as ten. The 38-year-old also complained to the police, council and her MP in a bid to stop nearly a decade of abuse of her mentally disabled daughter Francecca Hardwick,18, and dyslexic son Anthony. The group of youths, some as young as ten, threw stones and eggs at her home in Barwell, Leicestershire, urinated on a wall, invaded the garden and pushed fireworks through the letter box. Anthony was beaten up in the street and locked in a shed at knifepoint.

The final call to police came on the day of Miss Pilkington’s death in October 2007, when she was told to ‘ignore’ girls trampling over her hedge and mocking Francecca. The police felt she was over-reacting and did not connect the various calls to assess how vulnerable the family was. They felt it was not worth prosecuting for. The jury at the inquest into her death 2 years later ruled that Fiona and her family had been failed by the local councils in the area as well as the police and that those failings had contributed to her death.

The case of Fiona Pilkington is seen in the sector as a turning point in agencies being more responsive to vulnerable victims of anti-social behaviour. However, some areas do a better job than others.

[Source: historic newspaper articles including http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1214393/Police-dismissed-30-pleas-Fiona-Pilkington-killed-disabled-daughter-escape-yobs.html , http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-13504618]