I am often contacted by constituents, many of whom are in despair, about the persistent and unacceptable problem of anti-social behaviour. Many do so in a last desperate attempt to seek help. In most cases, I make representations to the City of Lincoln Council and Lincolnshire Police asking for an update of their involvement in the particular case and details of the measures that will be taken to put a stop to the situation. I know from my discussions and correspondence with both the Council and the Police that they work very hard in very difficult circumstances to deal with anti-social behaviour where it arises and is reported to them. However, I strongly feel that we can – and must – do much more to ensure that reports of anti-social behaviour are investigated and appropriate steps taken to resolve problems.
Everyone has the right to feel safe in their own homes and neighbourhoods. No one should have to accept graffiti on their walls, public drunkenness on their streets or harassment and intimidation on their own doorstep. Yet thousands of people around the country are still having their everyday lives blighted by anti-social behaviour. In 2008-09, for instance, 3.7 million incidents of anti-social behaviour were recorded by the police in England and Wales, equivalent to over 10,000 every day. Many do not even report it, convinced it will not be taken seriously. And sadly too often they have been right. Further, under the last Labour Government, the cost to government agencies of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales was approximately £3.4 billion a year.
It is clear that the old approach is not working and that we need a new way of dealing with these serious problems.
A local problem needs local solutions supported by a strong message from the centre that it has to be dealt with seriously. Local communities need to respond to the needs of victims, to work with communities they serve, and to have the freedom to do what they know will make a difference.
From November, directly elected Police and Crime Commissioners will play a key role. In its white paper “Putting Victims First”, the Government has stated that it will support local agencies by helping them to identify and support high risk victims, giving frontline professionals more freedom, improving our understanding of the experiences of victims, giving victims the right to require action to be taken where a persistent problem has not been addressed (via a new Community Trigger), making sure that terrorised communities’ voices are heard in the courtroom and speeding up the eviction of anti-social tenants.
But we are also focussing on long term solutions such as tackling problem drinking, stopping illicit drug use, addressing mental health needs, addressing the problems caused by troubled families and encouraging responsible dog-ownership.
Anti-social behaviour can blight the lives of hard working people who play by the rules. But this crime often goes unreported because the existing measures to deal with it simply do not work. The new powers announced by the government sweep away the failed measures of the past and at last give our local police and agencies the tools they need to stamp out antisocial behaviour for good.