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Anti-Social Behaviour: A brief review

Anti-Social Behaviour is often seen as a low-level nuisance issue which is just inevitable within society. However, the impact of behaviours can have a detrimental impact on the lives of individuals and the communities who are victim to it. Firstly, what do we mean by ‘Anti-Social Behaviour’ (ASB)? It is defined 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’ (Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003).

Broadly speaking there are three types of ASB, these are:

Personal ASB: Involves an individual or group being targeted

Nuisance ASB: When a community is caused annoyance or suffering

Environmental ASB: When actions impact the wider environment including public spaces/buildings

There are 13 different behaviours which fall under these subheadings, they include; Vehicle abandonment/inappropriate use, rowdy or inconsiderate behaviour, neighbour disputes, littering (including drug paraphernalia), animal related ASB (e.g. dog fouling/barking/intimidation), trespassing, nuisance phone calls, nuisance noise, street drinking, prostitution-related activity, begging and misuse of fireworks.

Impact of ASB

Research published in March 2023 and commissioned by the Home Office indicates that ‘ASB negatively impacted nearly all participants’ quality of life, with individuals experiencing a range of emotional impacts ranging from annoyance and anger to anxiety and depression and many adapting their behaviours due to fear of ASB.’ The research also identified that ASB weakens the public’s trust in institutions such as the Police. In her article ‘Exploring the effects of long-term anti-social behaviour’ Heap, V. (2021) also concludes that victims not only suffer a range of mental, physical and emotional harms as a result of ASB, but that these effects are cumulative and need to be acknowledged more widely in order for victims to be better supported.

What is the Solution to ASB?

In recent history there has largely been a reactive response to dealing with ASB which involve restrictive or punitive elements. You may remember for example the media attention given to ASBO’s (Anti-Social Behaviour Orders) around a decade ago. Other restrictive measures include Anti-Social Behaviour Contracts (ABC’s), Parenting Contracts, and short-term solutions such as Dispersal Orders issued by Police. The effectiveness of such measures have been debated and with many of these initiatives it may work for some but not for others.

More recently there has been an introduction of the ‘Community Trigger’, that is; a process which allows members of the community to ask the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) to review their responses to complaints of anti-social behaviour. This is designed to be used if no action has been taken thus far as a result of repeat reporting. This policy was created in response to a number of high profile cases where individuals had suffered prolonged periods of ASB with no support (such as the case of Fiona Pilkington). This policy has in itself not been without flaws. Reviews have shown that Victims who could benefit/qualify for a Community Trigger do not always know about it, those that have been involved in the use of a Community Trigger may not find it resolves the issues and this can lead to further distress and disengagement with authority (Heap 2021: Anti-social behaviour victims’ experiences of activating the ‘Community Trigger’ case review).  

New Approaches

In March 2023 the government unveiled their ‘Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan, releasing around £160 million in funding to tackle ASB. Whilst there continues to be punitive rhetoric and mentions of terms such as ‘zero-tolerance’, there is a recognition that there should be early intervention, support and help for young people to divert them away from such activities. A study by Farrington, Gaffney and White (2022) for example has shown that mentoring programmes can help reduce juvenile offending and ASB. The most effective interventions included Mentoring, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Family Therapy and Pre-Court Diversion. It is extremely positive to see that ASB is getting the attention and funding that it needs, but we need to ensure we use those funds effectively not only to improve the lives of Victims and communities, but also to engage and change perpetrators. So is it time to do things differently?

The article was written by Kira Day

To find out more about the ASB Services and Interventions offered by RSMS Interventions, contact Jonathan Hussey at Jonathan.Hussey@RSG.LTD

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