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Spotlight on: Tackling anti-social behaviour  

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) is a term used to describe behaviour that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to a member, or members, of the public. 

Abandoned vehicles, anti-social driving, begging, criminal damage and arson, drunken behaviour, fireworks, graffiti, littering, noise complaints, public disorder, and underage drinking, are types of behaviour that can negatively impact on individuals and communities.  

Last year, we managed over 70,000 incidents of anti-social behaviour (ASB) here in Avon and Somerset, of which 21,320 were crimes. 

Of these reports: 

  • 31.6% related to a neighbour dispute.  
  • 26.3% were classified as environmental, personal or nuisance anti-social behaviour. 
  • 24.1% related to nuisance caused by groups of people. 
  • 8.8% related to anti-social driving. 
  • 7.1% related to street related anti-social behaviour. 
  • 2% related to fires. 

How is anti-social behaviour dealt with? 

We have invested in a team of specialist Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) Co-ordinators who work across Avon and Somerset to tackle issues, alongside our Neighbourhood Policing teams. 

Cerwyn Pritchard is one of our ASB Co-ordinators who is passionate about ensuring people can feel safe and live without fear in their communities. 

“Taken in isolation, an incident might not seem serious – however when it happens persistently it can have a hugely negative impact on the individual experiencing it.” says Cerwyn. “We know that ASB can destroy lives and damage communities as a whole – and we take it very seriously.” 

“Local authorities, the police, the local Fire and Rescue service and social landlords are some of the agencies who share responsibility for tackling and dealing with ASB at a local level. This means that our teams often adopt a multi-agency approach, working with partners to problem-solve.” 

What can be done about ASB? 

Whenever possible, Cerwyn explains, police will try to use early and appropriate interventions to prevent individuals from sliding into the criminal justice system. This often involves working with partner agencies, offenders, and their families to protect an individual from their own behaviour or that of others and to protect residents and the public in general. 

The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides police and local authorities with a range of powers and tools to respond to anti-social behaviour, while ensuring that victims can comment on the way that complaints are dealt with. 

These include: 

  • Civil injunctions:  certain organisations, including police, can apply to the courts for an injunction which directs that someone must follow certain rules. If they don’t, they face a more severe punishment.  
  • Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) can be issued following a conviction for any criminal offence. The order sets out what the individual can or cannot do. Breaching a CBO can lead to up to five years imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. 
  • Dispersal powers: Authorised by Police Inspectors or above, people can be ordered to disperse when members of the public are facing harassment, alarm, or distress or in the event of localised crime and disorder. 
  • Community protection notices (CPNs) and remedial orders aim to prevent unreasonable behaviour. Anyone aged 16 or over, as well as businesses and organisations, can be issued with a notice which will require that behaviour to stop with steps to be taken to ensure it is not repeated.   
  • Public spaces protection orders are used to ban specific acts in certain places. 
  • Closure notices and orders are usually a last resort but can be used in relation to nuisance or disorder occurring in a residential or commercial building. 
  • Absolute grounds for possession -This applies to secure and assured tenancies where anti-social behaviour or criminality has already been proven. 

“In most cases, having to follow rules, improve behaviour or make good damage caused is enough to prevent further instances.”  says Cerwyn. 

Are we achieving results?  

In 2023, Avon and Somerset Police has led or worked in partnership with others to achieve 486 higher levels of ASB interventions, targeted at our most recognised high-harm and persistent ASB offenders. 

The figures include 18 premises closures applied for to address persistent and ongoing acts of anti-social behaviour along with associated criminality which was having a detrimental effect on the local people’s lives.  

The use of these interventions has resulted in resolution of many issues and shown the community that we are serious about dealing with ASB and supporting victims. 

“Injunctions and Criminal Behaviour orders tend to be highly effective, delivering a positive outcome for those in the individual’s “offending area” or victims who might be targeted by their behaviour.” says Cerwyn. “They also often benefit the individual themselves who are given clear parameters around their behaviour and a clear choice to make if they don’t want to face harsher punishment.” 

What about the victims? 

In 2023, we launched a Service Standard under which our Police Officers and Police Staff work to, setting the level of service we will deliver to victims of anti-social behaviour.  

The three key aspects are: 

Protecting victims – particularly our most vulnerable and persistently targeted victims.  

  • We will call all victims of ASB to ensure victims are getting the support they need. 

Recording crime accurately  

  • We recognise that many calls of ASB are in fact criminal acts. If this is recorded correctly and early on, we are more likely to be able to bring offenders to justice and support victims. 

Bringing offenders to justice 

  • The best way to manage and disrupt ASB offenders is often through use of anti-social behaviour legislation including some of those outlined above and working closely with partners. We are recognised as being one of the leading police services in the UK for achieving results in this way. 

What shall I do if I experience anti-social behaviour? 

“If it happens in your neighbourhood, we ask you to report it. Neighbourhoods can be an area where you live, work, or visit often.” Cerwyn explains. 

“Please do not be lulled into thinking that an issue in your community isn’t important because it doesn’t seem like a crime, is low level or because you are the only person affected. ASB is at the heart of Neighbourhood Policing, and we want to hear about it. 

“We understand that reporting ASB can be worrying, especially for repeat and vulnerable victims, but please rest assured that our Neighbourhood Policing Teams are here to listen, offer reassurance and support and address the issue. Often, incidents that are deemed low level can be quickly dealt with, giving the victim closure and a life free from the negative effects of ASB.”   

“So please don’t suffer, reach out and we will investigate and intervene as appropriate. This will not always result in an arrest, but we will do our best to solve the problem.” 

Contact details of our Neighbour Policing Teams can be found at:  Contact us | Avon and Somerset Police.  You can also report online or by calling 101. Please always call 999 in an emergency or when a crime is in progress.