Nick de Bois is the Member of Parliament for Enfield North and a Secretary of the 1922 Committee. Follow Nick on Twitter.
feel safe and secure in their own neighbourhood – but, for far too many people,
anti-social behaviour remains a serious problem blighting their daily lives.
Successive governments have sought to prevent and control it – but, while
progress has been made, there is still a long way to go.
There isn’t a
constituency surgery I hold at which at least one person comes to me about their
experiences of anti-social behaviour. They always feel let down, ignored and as
if, no matter what the politicians in Westminster say, nothing is going to
change their dreadful situation.
In reality, the
term anti-social behaviour is a catch-all term for anything from abusive or
threatening behaviour, dumping rubbish, and dealing drugs on the street – but it dilutes
what are real and, frankly, life-changing problems faced by many people
across the country every single day.
Gone are the
days when officials in Whitehall should be setting erroneous and crude diktats
to respond to anti-social behaviour. Instead, we should expect Police and
Crime Commissioners and other local representatives to respond to specific
issues. However, a role for central government remains – namely, to support these local bodies and ensure
that the rights of victims are firmly put first. There remains far more that
can be done to facilitate innovation and share best practice, using examples of
what has and hasn’t worked before.
Some of those
who commit anti-social behaviour are evidently not concerned by any measure previously put in place to curb their damaging actions. Consider Anti-Social Behaviour
Orders, for example. Of the nearly 22,000 issued between 2000 and 2011, nearly
60 per cent were breached at least once, and nearly 50 per cent were breached
more than once.
only way in which we can hope to begin to win the war against those who blight
local communities is by fully engaging with these local communities – ensuring
that responses are bespoke, long-term and actually work. The Community
Trigger and the Community Remedy seek to achieve these aims by allowing those
being affected by anti-social behaviour both to force the hand of the
authorities in investigating alleged behaviour and help to decide how those
committing such behaviour are punished.
Community Remedy will not at all be equivalent to a modern pillory or stocks,
it will empower local communities by giving them the opportunity to direct the punishment of
those who blight their local environment because of their behaviour. Such an
approach will allow punishments to be far more responsive, and require that
those who commit anti-social behaviour are accountable to victims.
Trigger will guarantee that action is taken on persistent anti-social behaviour
complaints which have often been repeatedly ignored. Although it is currently
being piloted in four local authority areas, the emerging picture of these trials
shows that currently the Community Trigger is not being used in the levels which
were anticipated. This is not
because there are minimal examples of anti-social behaviour which could benefit
from the Community Trigger – as my experiences of dealing with constituents who
visit my surgeries continually shows. Rather, it is because, more often than not, people remain fearful about raising their concerns.
Every Member of
Parliament and Local Councillor has met individuals experiencing anti-social
behaviour who feel they have nowhere left to turn. They consider the police to
be uninterested, the Local Authority as unwilling to investigate -and that
their final chance is to speak to someone who in reality has no executive
authority to alter their situation, but only make further representations on their
behalf to those same relevant authorities who have already repeatedly let them
down. It is an odd
state of affairs that those who are elected to act as legislators and
representatives are powerless to intervene and help their constituents solve
such life altering problems. Therefore there is no reason as to why the
Community Trigger should not also be a tool by which local representatives can
seek to help their constituents.
It is obvious
that the Community Trigger, once fully implemented, has the power to change the
way in which communities seek to prevent anti-social behaviour but, as the
trials have shown, those individuals suffering the most may still feel unable to
use it. This is why, as I recently raised during the debate on the introduction
of the Anti-Social, Crime and Policing Bill, the Community Trigger should be
widened to grant those who individuals turn to as their last resort the ability
to activate it.
If this was to be the
case, why stop just at elected local
representatives if we are to have true localism? Residents’ Groups who conduct sterling work in protecting
local communities should also be in a position to use the Community Trigger to
protect the daily lives of their residents. Anti-social
behaviour blights lives and destroys the harmony of communities – it prevents
blameless and innocent citizens from feeling safe and secure in their own
streets; therefore it is always welcome to see innovations that seek to curb
its seemingly continual rise.
As the Government seeks to enable local
communities to become partners of the police and local authorities in having
more control over their surroundings and defeating anti-social behaviour, it makes perfect sense to increase those who have the ability to engage
the Community Trigger – giving those who are voiceless because of their fear
the ability and power to improve their daily lives, and prevent anti-social
behaviour from escalating further.