Tag Archives: vulnerable

PCC promotion of the Community Trigger

What have Police and Crime Commissioners got to do with anti-social behaviour?

Well, we would suggest they have quite a lot to do with it!  Firstly, when they run for this elected post, they speak out about how they will help victims of both crime and anti-social behaviour.  They also speak out about helping vulnerable people, and in our experience it is often vulnerable people who are suffering from persistent anti-social behaviour which is making their lives a misery.

The government agrees that PCCs have a role to play – in its white paper ‘Putting Victims First’ it stressed the fact that PCCs have a key role to play in holding local agencies to account for the way they respond to victims of anti-social behaviour.

This white paper led to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 and the statutory guidance required PCCs to be directly consulted in setting up the Community Trigger/ASB Case Review in their local area.  Unfortunately the guidance falls short of requiring them to do anything further.  They ‘may’ be directly involved in the procedure through auditing case reviews, receiving appeals and/or monitoring the process itself.

With no mandate, many Police and Crime Commissioners have chosen to ignore it completely.  Clear evidence of this is how few PCC websites have a webpage explaining what the Community Trigger is and how to activate it.

Surely this is not too difficult to do?

Why should Police and Crime Commissioners promote the Community Trigger?

A review of each PCC’s Police and Crime Plans reveals the following:

bullet    63% (26/41)) of Police and Crime Plans have ‘Protecting the Vulnerable’ as one of their key priorities. The remaining 37% have mention of vulnerable victims within their plan. So 100% of Plans want to protect the vulnerable.

bullet     37% have a specific priority to tackle ASB. Sometimes this is included within ‘tackle crime and ASB’, in other cases it is specifically ASB.

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) often meet people in their surgeries who complain about problems with anti-social behaviour so are also aware of the problems on the ground with ongoing failings from local agencies to respond effectively.

Given the Police and Crime plans suggest protecting vulnerable victims is a priority for them we believe they should have information on their website to explain to people what the Community Trigger is and how they can activate it in their local area.

In June 2018 only 21% of PCC websites had this information available. This represents 9 PCCs. A further 4 PCCs had some information on their website about the Community Trigger but it was only focused on the appeals process, or just a press release about its introduction in 2014.

The 9 PCCs who had information for victims about the Community Trigger (also called ASB Case Review) were:

1. Cheshire
2. Derbyshire
3. Devon and Cornwall
4. Gwent
5. Linconshire
6. Merseyside
7. Surrey
8. Warwickshire
9. West Yorkshire

Best Practice

On some websites you can navigate to the Community Trigger from the Home Page. Derbyshire is a good example of this: https://www.derbyshire-pcc.gov.uk/Home.aspx where it can be found under the ‘Supporting Victims’ tab.

When PCC websites give links to how to activate the Community Trigger in each local area, they need to be sure the links are working since this same Derbyshire page contains faulty links.

Some good examples of how to set out a page on the Community Trigger can be found here:

Lincolnshire – https://lincolnshire-pcc.gov.uk/victim-services-and-information/community-trigger/ (However, arguably it would be more helpful to give a link to the appropriate page on each local authority website rather than to their home page.)

Warwickshire – https://www.warwickshire-pcc.gov.uk/helpingyou/community-trigger/ (However, once you click through to the Safer in Warwickshire site, there are again faulty links)

Merseyside – https://www.merseysidepcc.info/home/down-to-business/community-trigger.aspx This has links that work and in some cases give a named contact for victims.

West Yorkshire – http://www.westyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/how-we-work/our-outcomes/tackle-crime-and-anti-social-behaviour/community-trigger.aspx  This provides a succinct summary of the Community Trigger with working links.


ASB Help believes all victims of persistent anti-social behaviour should know that the Community Trigger exists and may be appropriate for them to use.

ASB Help believes PCCs are in a good position to help promote the Community Trigger and it meets their own priority of protecting vulnerable people.

At a minimum, ASB Help believes PCCs should have a clear page on their website to explain what the Community Trigger is and how it can be activated in their local area.

ASB Help also expects PCCs to take an interest where a victim is experiencing problems with the Community Trigger process and be willing to take an active role in ensuring the Community Trigger is functioning properly under their watch.

ASB Help will campaign for PCCs to promote the Community Trigger and will continue to refer to local PCC offices when approached by individual victims suffering from anti-social behaviour who have turned to the Community Trigger and yet the ASB continues.

Confusion Reigns

Community Trigger Confusion

The more I hear from people who have tried to activate the Community Trigger, the more I must conclude that there is confusion at every level.

I had thought the confusion was reserved for the actual victims – something I have documented extensively – from the perplexity of it going by two names to the baffling threshold. However, the confusion is much more widespread than this to include individuals within the agencies itself, either not knowing what it is about, or simply incapable of processing it properly.

I am left even more confused this week on finding that the Home Office has published its updated statutory guidance to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 in the quietest way possible (on Christmas Eve!) and in the process completely ignoring suggestions to use it as an opportunity to promote the Community Trigger.  As such it remains still something of a hidden mystery.

You perhaps think I exaggerate. Well, we have recently been involved in some research with individuals who have activated the Community Trigger and some of the experiences illustrate just how bad the situation is. Not a single example of an effective process with results. The reality is starkly different:

“I filed the community trigger I think around February, March time. By June I think it was I still had nothing from them so I was obviously chasing them and I think it took about two months for me even just to get a letter of a first response.”

“They said it didn’t meet the criteria, it wasn’t deemed significant enough and therefore it wouldn’t be triggered.  Which I found quite strange, but there you go.”

“To be honest I don’t know whether it’s made a difference or not because there hasn’t been any feedback on it so I couldn’t tell you whether things are quiet because that has done something about it or whether it’s just the time of year or because the police are going down when I’m calling them out, but I have no idea.”

“That meeting [case review] was on the 31st of August.  After numerous requests through the supervisor of the council for the letter I was promised, I got it in March.”

“So I filled it in and the next week, a week later, the police contacted me and I thought ‘Ooh, that worked quickly!’, but of course it was nothing to do with that.  They had randomly contacted me to say that because their ABC had failed they were going to take it to some meeting or other with the people who led on this kind of stuff, and then they were going to let me know what happened in that meeting.”  

Confusion at all levels

There are many concerns over the actual Community Trigger/ASB Case Review and what it is trying to achieve.  I had naively thought, however, that the basic processes of informing someone about their Community Trigger would have been followed.  It appears not.

Confusion reigns and I have to admit it all starts to look rather farcical.  We have been contacted by victims who need to activate their local Trigger through the police’s 101 number.  Yet when they request the Trigger, there is confusion on the other end of the line – the call handler does not know what it is!

People are being kept in the dark until someone who happens to have heard of the Community Trigger such as the local MP or an individual (and clued-up) PCSO or housing officer suggests it.    Yet how frustrating for them  – a victim finally finds an official who wants to help, but then they are thwarted by a process where the tight deadlines set out in legislation are not met and no feedback is given to the victim.

I have spoken to perfectly reasonable people who just want to understand what can and cannot be done.  They just want to be informed and be treated with the courtesy they deserve, and which they are promised on the council, police or housing association’s website.  They have taken the time to complete a Community Trigger application form and yet no-one can be bothered to get in contact with them, never mind give them the single point of contact they are supposed to have!

Can it ever be fit for purpose?

Only if the multiple layers of confusion are stripped away.  If the Community Trigger is really ever going to help victims of persistent anti-social behaviour, it must be made simpler.  If non-vulnerable people are wading in mists of confusion over this, coupled with downright incompetence on the part of some officials, how can the most vulnerable in our society ever have access to it?  Those with learning disabilities, or those with a physical or mental health condition, or ethnic minorities with English as a second language, or older people? The list goes on and we all know they represent a high percentage of those who are most affected by persistent anti-social behaviour.

Where can they go if all local agencies fail them?  The Home Office and the Victims’ Commissioner will send victims back to their local areas to get results to their local issues.  My sense is that Police and Crime Commissioners are the best placed to stand up and be counted – they can be a strong advocate for victims eligible for the Community Trigger.  They have authority and clout to see processes improved and action taken, but without a mandate, it is down to personal choice.

As we move towards 2018, we will continue to campaign for the Community Trigger to be made fit for purpose and for people to put words into action and actually put victims first.

Fundamental Flaw

We believe that there is a fundamental flaw underlying victim empowerment when individuals are dealing with such big organisations like Councils and social landlords.  The relationship is so unbalanced that it is easy to see how a victim could be ignored and feel powerless.

The Victim’s Voice

From our perspective, as a charity seeking to empower victims of anti-social behaviour, it is both sobering and deeply concerning to learn of how residents of Grenfell Tower sought to alert their Tenant Management Organisation to the fire risk of their tower block, but to no avail  This was not just one resident, one sole voice trying to ensure safety for their own home.  This was a group of residents, coming together to raise the alert.

Our website encourages victims of anti-social behaviour to not suffer in silence but to report the behaviour to the relevant authorities.  We suggest that if a number of people are affected, that they consider putting a petition together to make their voices louder.  We approach this with a positive attitude and optimism as to results.  A tragedy like that of Grenfell Tower fire makes it very difficult to retain that optimism.  It hints at a fundamental flaw in the rights of each individual in the UK.

The Most Vulnerable

Many have spoken of the fact that residents of Grenfell Tower were some of the poorer people in our society.  Some of the most vulnerable.  With a website dedicated to Fiona Pilkington, a small voice speaking up about harassment towards her and her daughter, it is easy to see how she was ignored and felt powerless to do anything about it, seeing the only alternative as taking her own life and that of her daughter.

So where does that leave the Community Trigger, and the Community Remedy, given that they have been designed to put victims first.  In the light of what we see at Grenfell, is the Community Trigger really providing empowerment for victims of persistent ASB or is it just lip-service to make it seem like victims are being put first.

The Localism Act 2011 gave local authorities a lot more power and authority over their own areas whilst the Audit Commission was disbanded and with it any central way of monitoring how local authorities are complying with the law and providing value for money.  Transparency International has highlighted the risk of corruption in their report: “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks”.

We have seen the lack of central monitoring of local government practice with the Community Trigger legislation – the Home Office no longer has any legal right to police what is happening at the local level.  No one seems to.  The statutory guidance to accompany the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is currently being revised, but however good it is, if no one is ensuring local Councils put it into practice, it is not going to be at all effective at improving the way the legislation is implemented.  This is surely a fundamental flaw in the whole process.

A Council may choose to follow the law and ensure there are transparent processes to protect victims  However, if a Council chose not to pay much attention to a victim, create new reasons why they couldn’t undertake a Community Trigger case review or just walk through the process without properly listening to the victim or investing much money, care or consideration to the case, what recourse does the victim really have?

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

Victims Sidelined Once More

Efforts to control public spaces, such as the latest furore over the ban on swearing at Salford Quays, are in the spotlight at present. The Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) have been contentious from the start and research undertaken by The Manifesto Club has recently highlighted why (http://www.manifestoclub.com/). I’ve read criticisms about anti-social behaviour being an “ever-expanding and arbitrary term” alongside concerns of hyper-regulation of our everyday lives. asbhelp2

For us the overarching focus on PSPOs creates a rather different issue. Yes, we agree that statutory guidance is in sore need of clarification to ensure PSPOs go through the proper consultations and to prevent innocent acts from being criminalised. Yet, we fear so much focus on these PSPOs too neatly takes resources away from those types of ASB that are ruining the lives of so many individuals and families in this country.

I’m sure it’s unpleasant to hear a load of foul language if you’ve gone for a family walk through Salford Quays. Yet surely this is temporary. We are rarely contacted by victims experiencing ASB in a public place. No, the heartfelt cries that we receive are usually those who feel trapped in their own homes thanks to the behaviour of their neighbours. The isolated and vulnerable – unable or too scared to galvanise public support to get the Council to take action. Unsurprising, since when they finally do get up the courage to report the ASB they are too often fobbed off, the problem belittled, the victim’s story disbelieved.

We make no secret about our focus – the Community Trigger. This has been designed to help the vulnerable, the isolated, those at the point of breaking, to get a multi-agency review of their case and action taken. Sadly we often feel we beat a solitary drum, the media seem remarkably disinterested in spite of the potential this has to show up agency failings, something they usually like to do! Often the hidden anti-social behaviour is the most complex and costly to solve. Easier to focus scant resources on implementing PSPOs to respond to those who shout the loudest (for what are often relatively minor incidents) than attend to the individual, complicated cases.

Do we have to see another tragedy like that of Fiona Pilkington before agencies truly appreciate the importance of prioritising the vulnerable or those suffering persistent ASB that wears even the strongest person down? PSPO debates rarely mention the victims that are behind the power. They’ve been sidelined once more, this time in favour of the general public’s opinion.

We are glad to see organisations and individuals shouting loud about free expression, free movement and free association. These are important values and the legislation’s statutory guidance flawed given its lack of protection of these. Who is shouting out, however, for that lonely victim, suffering anti-social behaviour of the most damaging kind, not knowing where they can turn? We hope other voices will join with our own and champion the rights of those who most need it.

Jenny Herrera CEO, ASB Help

Death Threats

“I felt like the police were trying to talk me out of pressing charges as they didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation until we started getting death threats.”

‘Carole’, in Council housing, explains she was a victim of hate crime due to her religion and mental illness. If she was suffering with a mental health problem, she should have been classified as vulnerable and given additional support. However, she says that “a lot of the times I felt like the police were trying to talk me out of pressing charges as they didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation until we started getting death threats.”

She mentions mistreatment of her children to the point she removed them from school, vandalising her car and gardens, obstructing the road and shouting, swearing and name calling with reference to mental health and religion. She became a recluse and was suicidal for the last 4 weeks they lived in that house.

“I could not eat or sleep for fear. My children could not play outside. Eventually got moved because of the death threats. Now, 6 months on, I have only just started going out of my new house to get food shopping but take a 25 mile round trip to avoid bumping into these people. I still cannot sleep and have severe panic attacks. I’ve completely lost what little confidence I had. I just don’t want to be around people. I am fearful all the time. My youngest child will not leave my side and now wets the bed and wakes up screaming from nightmares. It is really devastating that people can behave in this way but yet we had to move from a home we loved.”

‘Carole’ awaits a court case which she is very anxious about but she is determined to speak out against those who have caused her such distress.

Hate Crime is a serious matter and should be reported to the Police. See here for a definition of hate crime.