When I have met with voters antisocial behaviour and failing to tackle it effectively is one of the biggest issues raised. People seem to have different understandings or definitions of ASB; some regard vandalism as ASB when of course it is criminal. Common parlance is such that many of the public now refer to low level petty crime and unacceptable (non criminal) behaviour as ASB.
Criminal or not they want it fixed.
We will not make a step change in resolving ASB by only tackling its causes. We must also have real and effective sanctions for those repeat offenders who make the lives of others a misery. At the moment over 50% of tagging orders are breached and over 25% of community sentences are not completed. Whilst there is contempt for the police, the courts and their sanctions there will continue to be contempt for ones neighbours. The first part of my policy is that if you receive a sanction from the courts or the police you WILL comply and if you do not there WILL be genuine consequences. It has been said that certainty and swiftness of sanctions is more critical than the severity; we need to change our soft and slow approach.
There are however some developments in government policy which I wholeheartedly support. For example: putting in place steps to prevent vulnerable people, repeatedly targeted by vandals and hooligans, being overlooked as they have been in the past. I also agree with the proposed ‘community trigger’ where residents can come together and demand that public authorities act against anti-social behaviour. It is a sad reflection on society that we have got to such a point that a community trigger is needed; but do something we must, to avoid vigilantes gathering and taking matters into their own hands.
These are small steps and I believe there is much more that could be done. There are three areas not fully under the control of the police where I would seek urgent action:
- Greater control of street drinking. Current legislation is aimed at allowing the police to remove alcohol rather than outright bans. I want local authorities to have widespread powers to actually ban street drinking.
- Control of alcohol licenses. Local authorities must have greater powers to reject applications for alcohol licences and be more forceful in their removal. I want tougher sanctions against those who breach their licenses and sell to the young or intoxicated.
- Require Lincolnshire’s NHS to invest more in mental health services and treatment facilities which are generally underfunded. We need to ensure that those with mental health problems are supported and do not get caught up in ASB or the broader criminal justice system. There should be financial and legal sanctions against the NHS if it fails to deliver.
There are areas where we need to do more and protect from reductions in expenditure as far as we can. These include:
Work with vulnerable young people to ensure that they are involved in constructive activities. Organisations such as Positive Futures can make a real difference and in spite of the pressures on budgets these sorts of organisations should continue to be supported. Career criminals are often formed by the age of 18.
Help parents and make them more accountable. It is well known that a key element in antisocial behaviour are problem families; parents who refuse to take responsibility for the actions of their children on the one hand and others who struggle with complex issues like drugs. We must both challenge and support troubled families and ensure that Social Services Departments and others are resourced sufficiently to play their part. Where help is turned down or is ineffective there must be more prompt and decisive action taken against the parents with much stronger Parenting Orders overseen by the Courts.
Ensure drug and alcohol rehabilitation is effective. We must do more to make sure that these intervention programs are successful. We must remember addiction is an illness but only 75% of alcohol abuse programmes are completed and for drug rehabilitation it is even worse at 55%. And of course drug rehabilitation programmes will always flounder when the suppliers of street drugs are at liberty; the gangs who profit from the vulnerable should targeted if we want to reduce drug related crime.
Support neighbourhood watch and increase investment in community special constables or locally based retained police officers. These can all have an impact and nip the young shoots of antisocial behaviour in the bud. I want to create a new type of special constable, a community special constable (or even retained community police officer) and support organisations like NhW to help them grow.
However one of the biggest areas for strengthening is at the non criminal end of ASB where it often requires the involvement of others such as landlords and social services often dealing with problem families who make the lives of others miserable. From conversations with the public at times that joint working is superb and effective and at other times it is not. Joint agency working needs to be strengthened to be consistently good and provide fast and rapid responses to issues of concern. The police do and will need to continue to play a part in that.
Better still we want less crime and fewer victims. I have published some separate thoughts on reducing reoffending and the number of victims of crime.
When you vote – why go for the same old failed political parties – we need new ideas, fresh perspectives and a re-energised approach.