Tackling anti-social behaviour
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Anti-social behaviour is not just nuisance behaviour, it can severely impact on victims and make their lives a misery.
We work closely with councils and other organisations across Essex to support victims and deal with offenders.
This week is the UK’s first Anti-Social Behaviour Awareness Week, organised by community safety specialists Resolve. It aims to highlight how police, councils, housing providers, fire services and community groups keep communities safe.
With summer holidays now starting and the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, more people will be out and about and enjoying our towns, countryside and coastal areas.
That also brings the risk of increased anti-social behaviour. While some of this will be down to people deliberately causing problems, there may be others who are unaware their behaviour is intimidating or disruptive.
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan said:
“Anti-social behaviour impacts communities across our county in different ways and in the worst cases can change the way people live their lives.
“We don’t want anyone to feel intimidated where they should feel safe – whether that’s in their home, in town centres and parks, on the roads or out on the water.
“Just as there are various types of anti-social behaviour, there are also a number of ways we can deal with it. Sometimes just speaking to people to highlight the impact of their behaviour, or using restorative justice, can put an end to the problem.
“But we also use dispersal orders, closure orders for properties, criminal behaviour orders and other legislation where necessary.
“Working closely with local councils, partner agencies and our communities is key to finding long term solutions for persistent problems and we encourage anyone affected by anti-social behaviour to report it.
“We know more than half of people who are victims of anti-social behaviour don’t report it, but it’s really important you do so we can then deal with it.”
You can report incidents of anti-social behaviour on our website https://www.essex.police.uk/ or ring 101.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the work we do to tackle anti-social behaviour:
PC Barry Hilton and his colleagues in the Basildon Town Centre Team find most of the anti-social behaviour in Basildon town centre are related to street drinking, shoplifting, and children causing disruption in shops and abusing staff.
He said: “Since the town team started in 2019, we have had lots of positive feedback from the stores about the decrease in regular shoplifting because they have either gone to prison or have moved on.
“We’ve got a really good relationship with the stores inside and outside the Eastgate Shopping Centre.”
Thirty-three shops are currently signed up to a secure app that allows them to share information with police to help identify shoplifters and people causing anti-social behaviour.
The team also deal with people who are riding privately owned e-scooters illegally in public areas.
PC Hilton said: “I say to people driving them the speed they come through the town: If you hit anyone, be it an elderly person or young child, you’re going to seriously hurt them.”
PC Stuart Mackinnon and his colleagues have been investigating reports of young people throwing eggs at shops, running through shops and throwing things around.
He said: “We work closely with Thurrock Council, who stop them as well, and British Transport Police, who stopped a group at the railway station recently when they were throwing stones at the trains.
“Now I have sent letters to the parents of the young people involved to let them know their kids were involved in anti-social behaviour. Hopefully that will stop it but, if any of them keep doing it, it’ll be taken a bit further.
“But we’re trying to stop it before it gets that far and to get the parents involved in their community rather than criminalising their kids.”
PC Mackinnon said the impact of lockdown may be partly to blame for some of the anti-social behaviour.
Stuart says: “Things are getting better and the issues that were happening are a lot less than they were, even a couple of months ago.”
Thurrock Council leader, Cllr Rob Gledhill, said: “We know that anti-social behaviour is a cause of real concern for many of our residents and that is why we are committed to working closely with Essex Police to ensure that those who commit these offences are stopped in their tracks and the punishment they receive serves as a warning to others.
“There are now five town centre police teams in the borough based in Grays, Stanford-le-Hope, South Ockendon, with four officers funded by £1 million from Thurrock Council to create additional teams in Tilbury and Purfleet-on-Thames. These officers provide reassurance to residents and have achieved some tremendous results in apprehending and tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.
“Recently we have received an additional £540,000 funding from the government and the Essex Police Fire and Crime Commissioner to make Grays Town Centre safer by providing CCTV cameras, improved street lighting and increasing the capacity of our enforcement teams.
“We have made innovative use of Public Space Protection Orders to tackle anti-social behaviour in Grays Town Centre and prevent unauthorised car meets in West Thurrock.
“Thurrock Council is committed to putting a stop to anti-social behaviour because everyone deserves to feel safe where they live and within their community.”
Reports of anti-social behaviour are relatively low across the Uttlesford district and the community policing team work with other agencies, other agencies, such as Uttlesford District Council, to solve identified problems.
PC Glenn Braden said: “We work on reports of drug use and persistent anti-social behaviour and will first look to see whether any offences have been committed. Otherwise, if it’s an education thing, we’ll work with people to try to resolve the issue.
“If it’s happening there and then, we’ll tend to go out to deal with it. We have ways of dealing with things such as cannabis use by way of a community protection warning. The police and the district council can issue these and, if they are breached then, potentially, the person can be punished.
“To do that, we need to gather evidence – it’s about proving it or about witnessing it ourselves.
“If we receive reports that, say, an area is being used by drug dealers, we’ll mount an operation to target that area and we’ll link up with specialist police teams, such as the Dog Section, to do so.”
Sometimes there can be a perception that young people are committing anti-social behaviour but upon investigation, that’s not always the case.
PC Braden said: “They are just trying to get through life themselves so, for us, as police officers in the local community, it’s trying to work with them and educate them about people’s perceptions.
“For example, if they are sitting there either with hoods up or music blaring from their phone, we tell them how sometimes that can be seen as intimidating or anti-social.
“But for them, it might not even register with them that that’s the problem.”
We welcome careful and responsible drivers on Essex roads, and have no issue with car enthusiasts who meet in sensible locations with the landowners’ consent, have roadworthy cars and are respectful of the local community.
But we will not tolerate dangerous driving and disruption that puts people in danger. We can, and will, use legislation to take their licences away, seize cars, and arrest people.
We can also use dispersal orders and road closures to keep people safe.
Unfortunately this can also impact on law-abiding members of the public and businesses, which is the last thing we want to do. But if there is a need to because selfish drivers are putting people’s lives in danger, then we will look at all measures we can to keep people safe.
We’re expecting to see lots of people head to our coastlines and waterways this summer, and unfortunately we have seen reports of antisocial behaviour increase, especially in the use of personal watercrafts on the River Blackwater, the River Colne, Brightlingsea and at Point Clear.
We are working with local councils, who are responsible for our waterways and the implementation of bylaws, to take appropriate action against those who cause a nuisance and act anti-socially.
Maldon District Council kindly donated a personal watercraft to our Marine Unit to help officers quickly respond to incidents of anti-social behaviour and patrol busy areas to deter nuisance behaviour.
The unit, which also has a launch boat and rigid-hulled inflatable boat, police 562 miles of coastlines and waterways from the Thames at Crayford Ness to the River Stour in Manningtree.