In a speech today the Home Secretary called for changes in how anti-social behaviour is tackled, including more local control and more freedom for police to decide how to deal with each case.
Saying that one person in every seven believes their local area suffers from high-levels of anti-social behaviour, and that the financial cost of dealing with anti-social behaviour is billions of pounds a year, Theresa May said it was time to ‘turn the system on its head’.
Speaking at the Coin Street Community Centre in London, she pointed to today’s ASBO statistics which show breach rates have increased. This, she said, signals that ‘It’s time to move beyond the ASBO.’
Anti-social behaviour ruins neighbourhoods
Anti-social behaviour is more than a nusiance: it ‘ruins neighbourhoods, drags young people into serious criminality and destroys good people’s lives’, she said.
‘We need to make anti-social behaviour what it once was - unusual, abnormal and something to stand up to - instead of what it has become - frequent, normal and tolerated,’ the Home Secretary said.
Local answers to local problems
The solutions to each community’s problems will not come from the Home Office or any national action plan, but from local people, police, councils and housing associations.
However, she added, this doesn’t mean the government washes its hands of the problem. ‘In making this case, I’m not saying that there is no role for government. We’re not going to just walk away and leave you to it.’
The government will address the root causes of the behaviour, providing incentives for unemployed people to make work pay, and it will create a work programme offering targeted help for those who need it.
It will also put teachers back in control of the classroom, and strip away the bureaucracy that can prevent them from maintaining good behaviour.
In addition, it will overhaul the Licensing Act, to ensure that local people have greater control over pubs, bars and other places that sell alcohol.
Freeing police to make decisions
And policing will change too, ensuring police officers can deal with anti-social behaviour in the way they think will be most effective, both in meeting the needs of the victim and the community, and in changing the behaviour in question.
‘The radical policing reforms I announced on Monday will help to build a strong new bridge between the police and the public,’ she said. ‘The police should focus on what local people want, not on what politicians and civil servants in Westminster think they want.’
Directly-elected police and crime commissioners will be democratically accountable to local people and make the police more responsive to local problems - or face the ultimate sanction of rejection at the ballot box.
Listening to good ideas and working together
‘Rolling out good ideas like using the non-emergency number 101 for anti-social behaviour calls, giving residents a single point of contact and cutting through the confusion. We will look for a cost-effective way to establish 101 as a single non-emergency number so it is easier to report crime and anti-social behaviour.’
By working together - and only by working together - the Home Secretary said, the problem can be solved.’
For four years Joan Parrott and her family endured anti-social behaviour, including her son’s car being torched, until one day she decided to make a stand. She worked with the police and housing associations to ensure problems in her community were addressed.
She knocked on doors and encouraged her neighbours to come forward and report anti-social behaviour. And she managed community safety events attended by hundreds of people. Now her fellow residents come to Joan for advice: people in her community have learned from her and no longer tolerate anti-social behaviour. Watch her story here.