ASB: All sorts of behaviour

In this the second in a regular feature, the Research Inspector looks at new studies on anti-social behaviour and cybercrime.

Sep 27, 2017

How well do we understand anti-social behaviour (ASB)? You may say, in answer to the question, “everything” or “too well”, but just take a look at this new research. Since ‘ASB’ covers such a diverse mix of things, it is maybe not surprising that when you delve into it, differences show up in many ways. For example, some things – within ‘ASB’ – cause more relative harm; some things are more common; some things attract more attention; some things have poor police satisfaction; and some things do not get reported at all to the police. This new research is useful as it opens up consideration of the diversity of ASB, the number of partners who are involved in one way or another, and the often missing holistic overview of it all. The point is policing can better respond and address issues it better understands, so anything that helps us with that is for the good. The way the researchers took an holistic view was not to just rely on police data. Information was taken from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), over a three-year period. There is a danger of assuming trends if you look only at a snapshot, where you might not recognise ‘one-off’ changes, so the researchers delved into a three year period, from April 2012 to March 2015. So what were the headlines from the research? The study found that during this period, overall, the number of ASB victims marginally declined. Over that same period, the researchers identified people were more likely to be witnesses to ASB if they were living in an urban or inner city area and/or in social rented accommodation. It would be misleading, however, to claim that the above findings are uniform and patterns differ across specific ASB categories. The most common type of ASB was alcohol-related (eg, street drinking) followed closely by ‘groups hanging about on the streets’. But the most likely ASB to be reported to the police was ‘nuisance neighbours’, the type that had the greatest impact on people’s daily routine and quality of life. The second most reported to the police ASB type was ‘drug use/dealing’. In exploring ASB and the police response, public satisfaction was explored and it varied depending on the type. ‘Out of control or dangerous dogs’ had the lowest police satisfaction rates across all the data. Conversely ‘alcohol-related’ ASB, and in the recent years ‘homelessness and begging’, had the highest police satisfaction rates. Interestingly, the research reveals that less that 50 per cent of ASB came to the notice of the police at all – so the notion of neighbourhood policing being able to spot early signs has a challenge there. There was also an interesting link uncovered between ASB and escalation into crime victimisation. Those who had experienced ASB were twice as likely to be victims of crime in the same year, compared to those who had not experienced ASB. “In particular, experiencing or witnessing drug use, vandalism or criminal damage, intimidating or abusive behaviour and alcohol-related behaviour, had a significant relationship with crime victimisation” (Ward et al, 2017 p4). Work underway by two of the EMPAC (East Midlands Policing Academic Collaboration) project researchers will inform whether this has a lot to do with urban and social housing locations. These particular patterns can help police and partners target more precisely where the greatest risk, threat and harm is likely to occur. ASB-specific approach The research underlines the importance of taking an ASB-specific approach as frequency, harm and satisfaction with response varied depending upon the type of ASB considered. It also emphasises the diverse nature of ASB and the role of a range of organisations in responding to incidents. The research findings may be of particular use to organisations in the assessment of risk at the point of report. The data showing ASB could be linked to escalated crime for a particularly vulnerable group of individuals (who were experiencing both ASB and crime victimisation) means a combination of targeting the ty

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