PCC Alison Hernandez: Time to act on the scourge of anti-social behaviour

North Devon Gazette

For too long, people may have been forgiven for thinking that police, local authorities and courts do not prioritise anti-social behaviour.

I think part of the problem is that because the wide range of behaviour that could be classified as anti-social isn’t always criminal, so who deals with the perpetrator depends on what exactly has happened.

For example, using threatening or abusive language is a police matter, while dog fouling and nuisance bonfires fall firmly into council territory.

This can create confusion on who victims should call upon for help, sometimes giving the impression that dealing with anti-social behaviour is not really at the top of anyone’s agenda, and that no-one really thinks it is that important.

In Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly I want to change that narrative because I know far too many people are plagued by a nuisance neighbour or live in fear of a gang in their town or village.

We know that although we live in a safe part of the world we have a problem with anti-social behaviour.

Of a range of issues and crime types mentioned in my 2021/22 budget survey, anti-social behaviour emerged as the top priority, with half of respondents saying it was something they most wanted tackling.

We’ve also witnessed an alarming rise in incidents, probably related to the effect of lockdowns and stress from the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2020/21, Devon and Cornwall Police saw a 31per cent increase in complaints about rowdy neighbours when compared with the previous 12 months, malicious or nuisance communication reports increased by 45 per cent and reports involving fireworks were up by 22 per cent.

In the next few weeks and months you can expect to see a much clearer response from the police relating to anti-social behaviour.

The officer uplift means new cohorts of officers are joining neighbourhood teams all the time, aiding police visibility.

I am pleased to be hosting a day of online discussions this Friday as to how we tackle anti-social behaviour together, closing a week of talks hosted by the Safer Plymouth Partnership, one of Devon and Cornwall’s community safety partnerships - these groups have the shared goals of reducing crime, anti-social behaviour and alcohol and drug misuse.

Attendees will hear from a range of experts including the country’s Victims Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird QC, and Harvinder Saimbhi, chief executive officer of the charity ASB Help, which provides advice and guidance for victims.

A number of organisations will be signing a pledge to promote the community trigger, a case review designed to make it easier for people affected by anti-social behaviour to get the support they need and to be listened to.

The talks promise to be hugely informative but for our communities the time has come to put these words into action.