A helpful poster I saw recently at Leicestershire Police Headquarters highlighted these two words when looking at anti-social behaviour – Tolerate (in this particular poster above the photo of an elderly person); Respect (above the young boy). At this time of year where incidents of anti-social behaviour traditionally increase thanks to Halloween and Bonfire Night, I think Tolerate Respect frames the debate nicely.
Earlier this year some research was published by the University of Cambridge entitled Generation Blame revealing an important disconnect in the interpretations of anti-social behaviour of adults and young people. Of particular note is the high percentage of adults who considered young people’s presence in public places as ASB regardless of their behaviour.
Having a bit of fun at Halloween, making some noise on the way to and from a fireworks display for Bonfire Night, is more often than not, harmless behaviour. We would not want people, especially young people, to choose to never spend time outdoors for fear they would be branded anti-social. It would make for eerily quiet streets. When looking at what constitutes anti-social behaviour we are careful to remind people to be reasonable.
Yet, there is an important flip side to this. It is easy for harmless behaviour to cross a line and become intimidating, and cause harassment, alarm, distress, a nuisance. Those out having fun need to remember to do so within the constraints of the law and not use it as an excuse to act in an inappropriate manner. When this happens against people who already feel intimidated by the individuals in question, the situation can bring real misery.
Whatever our personal opinions of Halloween or Bonfire Night, the police and other agencies are on the alert to make sure those who enjoy these occasions do so in an appropriate way and that anti-social behaviour is dealt with swiftly. The new anti-social behaviour legislation has been designed to put victims first and protect them from those who will use any excuse to cause problems – this is as true at this time of year as any other.