Unfortunately, when I hold my regular constituency surgeries, all too often people have to tell me about the problems they are facing on their local street with anti-social behaviour. From persistent graffiti to noisy neighbours, people often have to put up with unacceptable disturbance. When that’s happening, and it can make people’s lives a misery, they want to know that the police are on their side and that they have the power to do something about it.
That job got a lot harder last week, as the Government’s Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill has just gone through the Commons, significantly weakening existing measures.
All the evidence, locally and nationally, is that anti-social behaviour is a growing problem. However you wouldn’t know it, thanks to what the Government have done. They have abolished ASBOs and replaced them with something called ‘Crime Prevention Injunctions’ – watering our powers to tackle anti-social behaviour down. Before, if you violated an ASBO, it was a criminal offence. It won’t be a criminal offence to break an injunction and it won’t result in a criminal record. I am sure that local people suffering from anti-social behaviour would think that that behaviour was criminal. What’s more, the police and local authorities are now going to have to pay if they want to pursue civil proceedings against any offenders.
The Government brought in a ‘Community Trigger’ which was supposed to give local people the power to get the police to act if there was persistent anti-social behaviour in their area. Freedom of Information requests prove that it just isn’t working. Of a reported 44,011 incidents of anti-social behaviour in the areas where the Trigger is being piloted, just 13 resulted in action. The Government’s Trigger is weak, ineffective and doesn’t do what it says on the tin.
Incredibly, the Government are also increasing red tape and making it harder for local communities and police to get CCTV installed if they want it. Not only is this making it even harder to fight anti-social behaviour, but it’s costing more too, an estimated £14 million extra.
I voted last week to keep the ASBO and reject the Government’s weakening of your powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in your neighbourhood. I also voted to ensure that offenders with a history of domestic violence can’t get a gun licence, for protection against violence and abuse for public facing workers, and for tougher action on dangerous dogs.