A key theme of the community safety consultation has been Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB), a contentious notion, hard to define, perhaps criminal perhaps a nuisance and a thousand shades of grey in between. I find particular TV programmes anti-social and the attitude of so-called celebrities as ASB, however I do not think that is the where the local communities concerns and priorities are, although reaching a consensus as to what is and what is not ASB and how-to best tackle this is an extremely challenging conundrum. The ASB Act (Scotland )2004 covers an extensive list of areas including the following: Dispersal of groups, the environment, licensed premises, matters relating to housing, excessive noise and the Act gives specific powers to the Police the local council and other agencies to enforce the laws around ASB which can then lead to an array of interventions and sanctions, including issuing ASBOS, Fixed penalty fines, criminal proceedings, parenting orders, and referrals to the Children Panels.
The Anti-Social Behaviour (Scotland) Act 2004 provides the legal definition of antisocial behaviour as:
“A person engages in antisocial behaviour if they act in a manner that causes or is likely to cause alarm and distress or pursues a course of conduct which causes or is likely to cause alarm and distress to at least one person who is not of the same household. (Course of conduct must involve conduct on at least two occasions).”
Antisocial behaviour may include, but is not limited to the following:
- noise disturbances, including loud music, noisy parties and shouting.
- hate crimes including race, religion or faith, sexual orientation, disability or transgender or gender identity.
- violence or threats of violence
- verbal abuse
- vandalism and graffiti
- drug dealing
The local community safety survey found that 35% of respondents identified ASB as their greatest concern in the local area, the notable issues were groups hanging about, underage drinking, noisy neighbours, vandalism, and fire raising. These behaviours are not pleasant to have to live with and it is therefore important that the local community safety strategy tackles these concerns effectively. Let’s however take a look at the national picture and as I have highlighted in a previous blog Modern Folk Devils and moral Panics: – Our Place Camelon and Tamfourhill (opcamelontamfourhill.co.uk) youth crime and ASB have over the last 10 years been consistently decreasing throughout Scotland. This situation has been noticeable in many aspects of Scottish society, however the communal anxiety about ASB and youth disorder has remained the same in our most disadvantaged communities. The recent published research by Robyn Bailey: The Scottish picture of ASB July 2020 found this to be a significant issue, i.e., although youth crime is steadily reducing those communities most negatively impacted by poverty and inequality still perceive this to be a significant problem. This off course is open to interpretation but perhaps the underlying issue is that there is a lack of opportunities for our young people which makes their behaviours more visible and when the local community lacks the capacity or resources to better engage and support its local young people then the issues are amplified and can appear worse than the actual levels of recorded criminality. This would suggest that if we invest more time and resources into working with our young people and if we similarly build the capacity of our local community to better support and engage with the youngsters then we will achieve positive results and outcomes. I know there is already good quality youth work taking place locally and I have experienced at first hand the community development approach utilised by TCV with their outdoor learning approaches with local young people. Outdoor learning and an appreciation for the environment can be used effectively to build positive relationships with young people and facilitate their personal and social development and instil an increased sense of social responsibility for that environment. Clearly if this approach could be sustained and further built upon then this would have many benefits for both the young people and their wider community. The local safety strategy I believe will be the most effective if it takes a community development and capacity building approach. The skills already exist within the community, the important thing is to build peoples confidence through training, support and investing in their knowledge, skills, and life experiences that they bring with them and which potentially can be deployed for the benefit of the wider community. This is a self-sustaining approach where the community sets a tradition and expectation of running and developing its own provisions, activities and services and these skills and knowledge get passed on through an ongoing programme of peer development. This also can potentially create new employment opportunities which will improve the local economy and address the adverse impacts of poverty and inequality. The community itself requires to build the confidence to deliver its own youth, children, and family work programmes. The exiting success of youth clubs and activities at Tamfourhill where local people have been empowered and built upon their skills to work in partnership with local families, children and young people is an excellent template for further development throughout all our local neighbourhoods.
It is unlikely that increased law enforcement or punitive measures will really have any lasting impact upon the safety and cohesion of the local community. The answers I believe are much more internal and the assets of our communities within their networks of support are the foundation upon which a local community safety strategy should be built.