What is Anti-Social Behaviour?

The headlines scream about it. The people complain about it. The politicians use it as a rallying point. These days, the term ‘anti-social behaviour’ seems to be everywhere. But what is anti-social behaviour? What causes it? How is it defined by British law? And, perhaps most importantly, what can be done about it?

These questions and more will be answered in this, our ultimate guide to anti-social behaviour.

The main emphasis of this feature, of course, will be the role that security operatives play in dealing with anti-social behaviour and what you can do, either as a private citizen, or a licensed security operative, to help stem the rising tide of anti-social behaviour in the UK.

So, let’s dig into anti-social behaviour in the UK and find out what we need to know. 

Table of Contents

What is classed as anti social behaviour?

Anti-social behaviour (which, from this point on will be abbreviated to ‘ASB’) is defined by British law as behaviour by a person which causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to persons not of the same household as the person”

We may need to unpack that definition a little before moving on.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that ASB and assault are not the same thing, although the legal definitions can overlap somewhat. UK law offers definitions for 3 kinds of assault, namely common assault, Actual Bodily Harm (ABH), and Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH). The first of these, common assault, does not require a person to be physically harmed to have occurred.

If, for example, one person gives another cause to believe that they will be harmed (such as issuing verbal threats), a case can be made for assault, rather than ASB, although how strong this case is will vary from incident to incident.

For ASB to have occurred, however, the perpetrator(s) only need to be harassing others or causing them to feel fear or distress.

An individual, or group of people, with no obvious agenda, who are deliberately provoking, intimidating, or otherwise irritating others are engaged in ASB.

The definition of ASB is not contingent upon whether the person or people engaged in it are familiar with the target of their actions, it could be a colleague, classmate, or former friend, or it could be a stranger. The only aspect that mitigates this part of the definition is if the target is an immediate family member or person with whom they cohabitate (i.e., “of the same household”), in cases such as this, other laws, such as those concerning domestic abuse, might be more applicable.

What Actions are Classed as Anti-Social Behaviour?

Broadly, ASB is defined as doing anything that causes a nuisance to others.

To this end, the law further defines ASB by 3 categories; these are personal anti-social behaviour, nuisance anti-social behaviour, and environmental anti-social behaviour.

Personal anti-social behaviour occurs in cases where a person (or a group of people) targets an individual or a group with the intent to harass, intimidate, bully, or annoy them in some way.

Nuisance anti-social behaviour occurs in instances wherein a person (or a group of people) causes suffering to a community.

Environmental anti-social behaviour occurs when a person’s actions (or those of a group of people) negatively affect public spaces or private property.

Beneath these 3 main definitions lie 13 different types of ASB that can occur, according to British law. Examples of ASB therefore include abandoning a vehicle, inappropriate use of a vehicle (e.g., for racing), rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour in a public space (e.g., fighting or being abusive towards others), vandalism or property damage (including graffiti and arson), acting as a nuisance neighbour, littering or dumping rubbish, fly posting, uncontrolled animals (including failure to clean up after a pet dog), trespassing, making prank, or nuisance phone calls, drinking alcohol in public spaces, promoting prostitution, making excessive amounts of noise in a public space, misuse of fireworks and, perhaps unfairly, begging.

Children bullying other children outside of school property may also be considered ASB, albeit only in instances wherein school disciplinary procedures have failed to amend the situation.

As with common assault, some examples of ASB are covered by other laws as well, with the severity of the damage caused and/or the perpetrator’s intent deciding whether the incident should be considered one of ASB or of a more serious crime. Arson, for example, is considered ASB in small cases, but is also a crime under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.

Targeting a person for verbal abuse, to cite another example, is usually considered ASB. However, if that person is targeted for reasons of their perceived race, religion, or sexual orientation (among other factors), this can potentially be considered a hate crime under the terms of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and could therefore be treated as a more serious offence.

Acts that are commonly considered to constitute ASB, but are, in fact, not considered such in the eyes of the law include improper parking, children playing, religious or cultural practice (such as funerals, or wedding processions), general household noise, one-off parties, D.I.Y during the daytime, groups of people congregating together (without behaving anti-socially), organised protests or licensed public events (such as political rallies, outdoor concerts, fetes, funfairs, and PRIDE events).

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act was passed in 2003, partly in an attempt to strengthen the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (commonly referred to as an ‘ASBO’) that was introduced in 1998, and repealed in England and Wales by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

The Act was introduced and championed by then-Home Secretary David Blunkett and was designed to cover a wide-range of social infractions, from minor fare such as truancy from school or petty acts of vandalism to the closure of ‘drug houses’, misuse of the emergency services, and fighting the proliferation of gang culture throughout the UK.

The act, while still in effect, has been amended on multiple occasions, notably in 2006, 2008, and 2015. Parts of it have also been superseded by the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. The information and definitions offered above and below refer to the most recent version of the Act at the time of writing.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 relates to other legislation, such as the Local Government Act 1972, the Public Order Act 1986, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, and the previously mentioned Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, among others.

Also, as previously mentioned, this legislation potentially overlaps with other legislation in several areas, covering similar crimes (examples cited elsewhere include assault, arson, and hate crimes).

Under the terms of this act, police have the power to apply to a Magistrates’ Court for various reasons.  These reasons include closure of a residential premises if the residents of said premises have been involved in the manufacture, use or supply of ‘Class A’ drugs, or have been involved in causing a persistent nuisance or disorder that disrupts the community surrounding the residence.

In a similar manner, the act empowers private landlords to obtain an injunction with the primary goal of legally removing a resident or residents who are causing a persistent nuisance or are involved in Class A drug use.

The act grants police the power to disperse groups (defined as ‘2 or more’ people) if they are harassing or being abusive towards others. It also gives them the power to formally escort a child under the age of 16 to their home between the hours of 9PM and 6AM. In addition, the act prohibits the use of airguns or imitation firearms in a public place, as well as limiting their sale.

Excessive noise also falls under the terms of this act, which gives local councils the legal right to close venues that fail to abide by the laws governing noise pollution.

The act also allows Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) and Rail Community Officers (RCOs) to issue fixed-penalty notices if offences do not cease following a formal reprimand.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 was created with the aim of tackling a number of social ills which were perceived to be on the rise during the late 1990’s and the turn of the millennium. Essentially, it created (or to be more accurate, reinforced existing legal framework concerning) a set of legal consequences for persistent and unrepentant anti-social behaviour.

How to stop anti social behaviour?

Research has shown that a community-minded approach to ASB is far more effective than heavy-handed police crackdowns or more aggressive legislation. This is perhaps because the latter approaches do nothing to consider the root causes of ASB, which can be many and numerous. Pulling the leaves off a weed does not stop the weed from growing, so it is with hard-headed, Draconian measures that punish the entire community for the actions of a few.

The town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire uses an anti-ASB method known as ‘Multi-Agency Problem Solving’ (MAPS). This approach involves first reaching out to the person who has been reported as behaving inconsiderably with a letter or visit from a police officer, PCSO, or representative from some other, relevant agency. According to Harrogate District, “These measures often nip the problem in the bud”

In many cases, the person responsible for committing ASB does not know that they have behaved inappropriately. For example, a neighbour may not know that their music or television creates a disturbance for their neighbours until somebody tells them. Of course, we would always advocate for communicating directly and respectfully with a noisy neighbour before formally reporting them, but the example stands.

The MAPS approach, however, doesn’t stop at verbal or formal requests. Other measures that can be employed include public awareness campaigns, parenting and legal orders, court injunctions, and acceptable behaviour contracts.

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (sometimes referred to as ‘ABC’s’) are particularly interesting, as they are designed to expose the perpetrator to the effects of their actions. An ABC takes the form of a written agreement between the person involved in ASB and a relevant party, such as their landlord, a police officer, a youth service or school representative, or similar.

ABCs are drafted on a case-by-case basis, but usually involve the perpetrator agreeing that, if their behaviour persists, there will be consequences. Usually, these consequences include things like fines, and community service, essentially allowing the perpetrator of ASB to atone for their mistakes. The contract (although ABCs are not a legal document, so sometimes the term ‘agreement’ is used instead) typically lasts for a period of 6 months.

If kept, an ABC helps a person to avoid legal trouble and empowers them to amend their ways, take a more productive role in their community, and ultimately take responsibility for their actions. If broken, an ABC demonstrates that the perpetrator is unrepentant, and that more serious punishment is required to rehabilitate them.

The aim of these, and other, community-based initiatives is not only to prevent ASB from recurring in the future, but also to discover the root causes behind unacceptable behaviour. If, for example, a young person is acting anti-socially due to trauma being inflicted on them at home, the MAPS approach is vastly more likely to uncover this and help the youth, whereas more aggressive countermeasures stand to do little more than create another criminal.

The MAPS approach also includes support for the victims of anti-social behaviour. Harassment, bullying, and any kind of abuse are serious issues, and can have a profoundly negative effect on the human psyche (as several of our own studies have attested). The MAPS approach therefore includes a strong emphasis on victim support.

Local councils also aid in the fight against ASB by investigating environmental protection complaints, removing fly posting, graffiti (on public buildings), litter and dumped rubbish and working closely with police, PCSOs and, in some cases, private security firms.

Often, victims of ASB are afraid to speak out, or else pessimistic as to what good reporting their experiences will do. In some cases, this can lead to citizens taking matters into their own hands, an approach that often causes far more problems than it solves. This is another way that ASB can damage a community, by eroding faith in institutions such as police, security, and first responders, and creating a reciprocity of negative actions and behaviours. It is vital that a community sees the work being done, on all levels, to safeguard both its members and the local area.

Early intervention is also crucial to a swift and simple resolution. In fact, as many as 75% of ASB cases are resolved following the first intervention. It therefore pays for councils and community leaders to be as vigilant and proactive as possible.

Of course, government cuts to public services (such as youth centres and street-based youth work, various state benefits that increase the quality of life in poorer areas, and the police) have had a very deleterious effect on levels of ASB. Indeed, incidents of ASB are on the rise at the time of writing, exacerbated by issues such as poverty and a lack of police presence on the streets.

In 2021, the UK government published its Beating Crime Plan, which emphasises harsher punishments for violent, repeated, and drug based offences.

According to the plan, As most crime is committed by a small number of persistent offenders, we will also manage them with discipline, incentives and clear consequences – encouraging them to turn their backs on offending, dealing robustly with those who fail to play by the rules”.

The plan also describes investment in initiatives such as the Safer Streets Fund, which is designed to provide funding to crime-busting initiatives, as well as undoing some of the more egregious police cuts by recruiting more officers to patrol our streets.

In the same year, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCCs) published a document entitled ‘ASB in Focus’, which detailed various initiatives, plans, and projects being rolled out in order to challenge the proliferation of ASB.

There are many approaches to dealing with the issue of ASB, and new strategies are being created and tested all the time, many of which are detailed below. ASB is a community problem and it seems that many of the possible solutions are also community-based.

The Role of Security Operatives

In the wake of extensive police budget cuts and the unique challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, private security firms and operatives are finding themselves increasingly taking on new and unusual responsibilities.

Today, Door Supervisors and private security operatives patrolling city streets and residential areas are a common sight, although public – and security industry – opinion remains divided on whether this is a good thing or not. Accordingly, security operatives are increasingly encountering those involved in ASB in areas aside from the usual venues and private spaces.

In 2017, Salisbury City Council granted extra powers to operatives from ‘Venture Security Management Ltd’, formally contracting the firm to patrol the city itself and making them, effectively, junior partners to the local police. The strategy (and, indeed, the same company) had been successfully utilised in other areas as well, such as Winchester in 2016.

These operatives, known as City Centre Security Officers (CCSOs), were contracted specifically to help tackle ASB, with their special powers being awarded to combat minor instances of ASB such as begging (officially classed as ASB by the 2003 Act), underage drinking, and public disorder in general.

Venture have liaised closely and regularly with Wiltshire Police to fulfil this role, which has helped to stem the tide of ASB since its introduction. As with PCSOs, CCSOs are helpful only to a point, and are not full police officers. They fill the visual role of ‘the bobby on his beat’, without the capability to play the part entirely.

Nevertheless, CCSOs are armed with Body-Worn Cameras (BWCs) and tagging sprays, which help to link perpetrators to their crimes. They are trained professionals, who are clearly distinct from (and therefore cannot be mistaken for) police officers but are enabled and equipped to effectively handle small-scale incidents of ASB.

CCSOs can gather evidence, mark criminals for later arrest, and can perform citizen’s arrests if necessary. They are also empowered to confiscate alcohol or tobacco from underage people, request (and receive) a name and address for victims or perpetrators of ASB and they have the legal power to force beggars to cease their practice and move elsewhere.

Like most security operatives, they can also perform basic first aid, and utilise verbal de-escalation techniques where necessary. This, essentially, is the extent of their powers. CCSOs do make a difference to their communities and, in most cases, do the industry proud. However, we do have some misgivings regarding initiatives like this.

The issues posed by the deployment of CCSOs, and other, similar measures, are many and numerous. The obvious financial benefits to security firms notwithstanding (initiatives like this represent a major new area of business, and that fact is not to be overlooked or dismissed in such precarious financial times as these), it is reasonable to suggest that security operatives cannot – and should not – fulfil the role of police.

Firstly, security guards are not trained police officers and, as such, do not possess the necessary skills or legal knowledge required to tackle actual crimes.

Although these CCSOs are only expected to handle small-scale crimes and instances of ASB, the potential for such incidents to escalate beyond the minor (and therefore beyond the limits of an operative’s training, putting both the operative and the public in danger) is always present.

We’ve also pointed out elsewhere that security operatives lack appropriate legal protections when dealing with especially unruly people and situations. A security operative, basic powers notwithstanding, is essentially just a member of the public. This demonstrates that security operatives are not legally equipped to handle difficult or dangerous situations in the same way that police do.

Another issue is that of accountability. Police officers are accountable to their superiors, who are ultimately accountable to the British people, whom they serve. Private organisations, such as security firms, however, exist not to serve the community, but to turn a profit, and are accountable predominantly to individuals such as shareholders, company directors, and stakeholders. There is, to put it mildly, a wide gulf of difference between the accountability of a company to its customers and that of a public institution to the population of a nation.

We feel that it is somewhat unfair to place so much responsibility on the shoulders of a workforce who are both inadequately trained and not legally protected to discharge these difficult duties. However, (perhaps paradoxically) we also have great faith in Britain’s security operatives and have seen evidence that schemes like those in Winchester and Salisbury can be, and are, successful in their goals of making British streets safer for everyone.

It’s the same old story, really. Security operatives are expected to handle all manner of situations, but are, in most cases, inadequately trained, unfairly compensated, and not legally or otherwise protected when they do so. Adding significantly to their (already numerous) duties without increasing training, pay rates, and protections does not, to our minds, represent a long-term solution to worsening social issues such as ASB.

Community-based solutions, such as the MAPS approach, as well as a major increase in police funding, are far more effective solutions to the issue of ASB. This is not to say that security operatives don’t have a part to play in reducing ASB to more acceptable levels, just that they are not – and should never be – a substitute for police.

How Does Anti-Social Behaviour Affect the Community?

If left unchecked, ASB can cause enormous damage to a community. It can cause people to live in fear and anxiety (which is destructive to mental health), and it can propel younger people to fall under the sway of gang culture.

ASB can cause house prices to plummet and scare businesses away (lowering employment levels and discouraging private investment in an area). It can also lead to the proliferation of more severe crimes, such as robbery and assault. In short, ASB is a far more serious issue than it first appears to be.

In areas where ASB isn’t dealt with, parents are afraid to walk their children to school, or to let their children walk the streets alone. This teaches children to fear, rather than engage with, their wider community; a lesson they take with them to adulthood. Elsewhere, otherwise decent people take to carrying weapons such as knives, so that they can defend themselves and others if necessary, and people lose pride in their public spaces, which leads to littering, vandalism, neglect, and a wealth of other problems.

When reported by the local press, incidents of ASB gradually poison the way that individuals and families view their local area, a fact which causes those who can afford to do so to leave, and those who cannot to feel trapped, instead of enjoying and appreciating the part of the country they call home.

Nevertheless, ASB is often dismissed as a series of ‘one-off’ isolated incidents, or of being symptomatic of an area that is simply, and irreparably, ‘rough’ or ‘bad’ (often a class-based assumption if the area is seen as ‘low income’).

Accordingly, many people (including those employed to preserve public good such as council officials and MPs) simply consider ASB as a natural consequence of (if the area is urban) ‘city life’ or (if the area is rural) ‘bored kids with nothing to do’. The community and its elected officials, (sometimes even police!) simply shrug their shoulders in a helpless and defeated way and accept it.

The truth, however, is that ASB is a behavioural pattern. Once some ASB is seen as tolerable by the community, more is sure to follow. More must be done by all communities, and at all levels of government, to stamp it out. ASB is only tolerable because people tolerate it, often because they feel they have no choice but to do so.

However, a new and greater understanding of the root causes of ASB, with an emphasis on applied psychology, increased social harmony, understanding, tolerance, and acceptance of others, coupled with public awareness that ASB is not simply ‘something to put up with’ has the potential to change that.

Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour: What Works & What Doesn’t

Despite the concerns voiced above, the deployment of CCSOs have proven to be an effective strategy against ASB. Sometimes, simply having a person in uniform present (regardless of how limited their legal powers and protections are) is enough to prevent incidents of ASB from escalating, or even occurring at all.

CCSOs are not a viable replacement for police officers, but they are doing a very useful (and much needed) job on Britain’s streets. Initiatives such as these have been very effective so far, so we would expect to see more of them going forward.

Thankfully, ASB is seen as a serious enough issue by many local councils that several innovative strategies have been rolled out across the country to help handle it. These local authorities include Lincolnshire Council, which sought information on their ASB issues that did not solely come from police data.

To this end, Lincolnshire Council (and other, related parties) began to gather data on the specific issues being faced by their community, as well as put together a “best practice toolkit” for dealing with these issues head-on, instead of simply responding to them after the fact. They also worked with young people involved with ASB to better understand the root causes of their actions, as well as learning from the victims of ASB. This information was then collated and shared to all interested local councils, as a way of collectively solving the problem of ASB.

A similar anti-ASB scheme was piloted by Copeland Council in 2016, which utilised partnerships with multiple agencies, including charities such as ‘Age UK’, drug and alcohol charities and mental health groups, as well as Environmental Services, probation officers, and emergency services, among others. The aim is to pool knowledge and resources to identify ASB patterns and offer early intervention before the incidents escalate.

Elsewhere, Sheffield Council’s team of ‘neighbourhood officers’ were formed to provide support for the city’s council housing tenants. The team saw great results, reducing ASB complaints from 5000 to 3000 within 4 years.

North Tyneside Council placed their emphasis on young people, creating a ‘neighbourhood policing team’ that engaged specifically with the young. They also opened a new ‘drop-in’ youth centre, as the team practiced early intervention to pull ASB out at the root. This approach saw reductions in ASB that were as high as 50% in some areas.

Surrey Council also favours a proactive approach to ASB. Their emphasis is on the victims of ASB, offering mediation services (provided by not-profit group Mediation Surrey) and coaching services that enable people to reach agreeable compromises instead of falling afoul of one another and escalating tensions. They also place special emphasis on what they call the ‘grey area’, i.e., situations that don’t yet meet the criteria of ASB, but have the potential to escalate.

Plymouth Council used money from the Government’s ‘Safer Streets’ fund to enrich and enliven one of its most deprived, and crime-ridden areas, North Stonehouse. To this end, the council engaged with the local community, and worked with them to provide an array of services aimed at helping the people of North Stonehouse and lessening instances of crime and ASB.

In North Stonehouse, a new community space was built, community art projects were created (including an exhibition of residents’ photography), graffiti and vandalism were replaced with planting and murals, and CCTV cameras were conspicuously placed in ‘hotspot’ areas.

Many of these initiatives were based around fostering a sense of community and restoring pride in what was once seen as a ‘run-down’ area. Hopefully, this will lead to a reduction in ASB and crime, as residents are no longer resigned to tolerating ASB as simply a part of local life.  

Richmondshire District Council found that local beauty spots, once home to happy gatherings of people that fostered a sense of community, pride in the local area, and general optimism were being occupied by aggressive and abusive people who were littering, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and lighting fires. These activities were understandably discouraging locals from visiting the areas, as well as scaring away potential tourists and day trippers (always an important revenue source). In response, they created a Public Spaces Protection Order (PPSO) to keep these areas free from ASB.

Many of these initiatives are new, and, as such, are somewhat untested. However, results so far have been highly promising, suggesting that a strong, community-minded approach that tackles problems early and supports victims would appear to be the way forward.

Increased cooperation between police, local councils, private security firms, charities, youth centres, mental health professionals, and other, relevant parties demonstrably allows for the sharing of information and resources, which, in turn, helps to resolve a lot of ASB issues before they worsen.

Elsewhere, restoration of pride in the local area, and regaining a sense of community (often achieved through public investment and the protection of local areas) are also important psychological factors that can deter ASB.

To understand approaches that don’t work, it helps to adopt a broader, somewhat more detached perspective. Human beings, like many primates, are social animals. We live together in communities; some small, some large.

Certain behaviours, such as being helpful and accommodating to the needs of others, are seen as beneficial (and therefore desirable) by the community. Other behaviours, such as aggression or violence, and/or being generally callous or uncaring towards others, are actively unhelpful to the collective goals of the community and are therefore undesirable.

When undesirable behaviours increase (or are perceived to have increased) beyond basically tolerable levels, the community’s representatives, empowered as they are to take such action, respond by enforcing formal punishments aimed at stemming the rising tide of negative behaviours.

However, in some cases, behaviours considered undesirable by the community’s decision makers, are not necessarily thought of that way by most of the community, which can lead to a culture clash or, in far more extreme circumstances, situations like the ongoing social unrest in Iran.

One UK-based example of a culture clash would be graffiti, which can be defended as public art if “the defacement is neither detrimental to the amenity of the area nor offensive” and if the owner of the object or premises being defaced has given their permission.

Graffiti is illegal under the Criminal Damage Act 1971, the Public Order Act 1986, the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, and, of course, the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003. Basic punishments range from community service to a Fixed Penalty fine (usually £75). However, graffiti designed to incite racial hatred carries a maximum jail sentence of 7 years, while, in cases where the damage caused exceeds £10,000, a Crown Court may pass a sentence of up to 10 years.

Despite the law clearly defining graffiti as a criminal act, many councils will provide ‘free walls’, where local graffiti artists are allowed, even encouraged, to express themselves with paint and pen. Graffiti is also a common form of public art, with building owners (such as those who run nightclubs and youth centres) commissioning graffiti artists to create street art on their premises.

Elsewhere in popular culture, figures such as Bristol-based street artist ‘Banksy’ have been lauded and praised for their contributions to the culture, despite those contributions being illegal. Graffiti is also seen as one of the pillars of Hip-Hop culture, and as such, is looked upon as an important form of cultural communication to many sub-cultures and youth cultures in the UK.

Proponents of graffiti argue that members of the community are forced to look at public art they did not commission, advertising they may not appreciate, and designs they do not choose simply by dint of living in the community and that daubing the walls with their own designs is intended as a way of ‘taking back’ their living space. The law largely disagrees, but the general populace would seem to be divided on the issue.

Here, then, we can see that the lawmakers are not always in-step with those in whose name they are legislating. When authorities become too heavy-handed while punishing these infractions or refuse to re-evaluate them to bring them into line with current thinking, history tells us that disaster is inevitable.

A lot of people in the UK advocate for harsher punishments for perpetrators and sometimes this approach is needed. However, these more heavy-handed approaches do little to deter or prevent ASB, as well as other crimes in the long run. Additionally, police, private security, CCTV, and other preventative measures will never be able to capture and punish every crime or incident of ASB that occurs.

It is therefore better, we feel, to tackle the social issues at the heart of the problem; issues such as poverty, poor mental health, hopelessness, the proliferation of gang culture, lacklustre parenting, lack of faith in community, lack of employment opportunities, bullying, easy availability of drugs and alcohol, retaliation to existing ASB, abusive relationships, poor educational standards, and more.

It is easier, then, to simply advocate for hard, blanket solutions that have been proven time and again not to be effective, than it is to take the time to try to understand ASB, identify its various, overlapping causes, and devise long-term, workable remedies to one of the great social problems of our time.

How to report anti social behaviour?

Most of the anti-ASB strategies we’ve discussed in this feature are the kind of initiatives that need to be taken by local government or community action groups. These kinds of ideas require time, effort, community involvement, and funding if they are to be successful in their objectives.

…But what can the individual do? What can you, as a member of your community, do to stem the tide of ASB, without putting yourself in jeopardy and risking becoming part of the problem yourself?

The obvious answer is to call the police. However, this response presupposes that a) the perpetrator has done enough to warrant the police being called (i.e., they have actually engaged in ASB) and b) there are enough police in your local area to respond to the problem effectively.

It is only worth contacting the police if an assault has occurred (see the definition above), private property has been damaged, you have been extensively or severely harassed, or a person has attempted to incite racial hatred or hatred towards a minority (e.g., racist, religious, or homophobic abuse), or is driving dangerously.

In these instances, police can issue on-the-spot fines, seize contraband and alcohol, and impound vehicles. In cases of violence or other, more serious crimes, they may even make an arrest.

If the police are not an option, you can also contact your local council. Local government has the power to apply for court orders against issues such as drug abuse/sale of drugs, excessive noise (in the case of a neighbour), and even eviction. Local councils also have the power to appeal directly to private landlords, as well as offer the victim alternative accommodation pending the resolution of the situation.

If the problems persist, you may consider taking legal action against the perpetrators. However, in such cases, the burden of proof is on you, and court cases can be expensive, as well as time consuming. We recommend contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau before taking this course of action.

One thing that may work is speaking to people directly. Before we go any further, it should be noted that this approach must be taken at your own risk, and that only you can judge how safe or advisable this course of action is.

In the case of nuisances such as noisy neighbours, oftentimes the perpetrators do not know they are causing a disturbance. In such cases, immediately contacting environmental services (or similar), without first consulting the neighbour about the issue may end up needlessly provoking hostility. If you think it’s safe, we advise you to speak to your neighbour directly, or else post a friendly note through their door explaining the nature of your grievance. This will, in most cases, remedy the situation.

You can also write to your local MP, or council, and make them aware that ASB is an issue that you, as well as other voting members of the community, care deeply about. Be sure to always vote in local elections. When you do, always vote for candidates who know the local area, and have constructive, workable plans to tackle ASB.

Sometimes, ASB can be caused, or worsened, by policies enacted on a national level by the UK government. One example would be the current government’s severe cuts to police funding. Consider issues like this when voting.

It’s easy to feel disenfranchised by politics, and to think that it doesn’t concern you, but the fact is that many mechanisms exist to allow you to not only have your say, but also to help everyday people create genuine, lasting change in their communities, and in the country. Sometimes, the system works, but for it to work, people must be willing to use it.

You might also consider, if possible, volunteering your time to community-based endeavours, such as feeding the homeless, working in a food bank, applying to become a youth worker, cleaning graffiti from walls, picking up trash, donating to a local charity, or finding other, productive ways to serve your community. Often, a lack of community is a factor in the rise of ASB, so stemming the tide personally can help the situation overall. You can usually spearhead positive change simply by leading by example.

Finally, THIS LINK contains the contact details for several organisations that deal, in various ways, with ASB.

ASB is a big problem facing the country right now, but like all problems, solutions are always available, and new strategies are always being devised.