We Live With Anti-Social Behaviour: A Case Study
John and Sally saved up to buy their first home on a new estate despite rising house prices at the time. They met their neighbours and settled in happily – until a gang of youths started plaguing the area in which they live. Here they describe what it is like to live with anti-social behaviour on a daily basis.
“The estate we bought our house on seemed perfect,” John says. “There were plenty of people our age and lots of families with children – perfect as we were thinking about starting our own family.”“The schools were good and there was a good park within walking distance. It seemed like the perfect home.”
The Problems BeganAnd yet, the couple had only been living in their home, their home which they worked so hard to buy, for six months, when problems began. One night, sally was driving home when she found one of the main roads into the estate blocked by the youths who would not move.
“That in itself was terrifying,” she said. “And when I started to chat to our neighbours, I found that it had been happening to them as well.
“It’s all very well saying that they are just kids, and that they hadn’t done anything, but the menacing way they blocked that road off was enough to convince me that they meant trouble.”
And it wasn’t long before the fears of Sally and her neighbours were proved to be true. The youths moved further into the estate and started sitting on walls, drinking alcohol and smoking. They dropped beer cans on people’s drives and swore at anyone who tried to tell them to stop. But because they haven’t actually broken any laws, there is very little the families can do.
Living with Anti-Social BehaviourJohn adds: “We’ve called the police but they keep telling us the same thing, that there isn’t a lot they can do until they’ve broken some laws. “In the meantime, we have to put up with our lives being made a misery by this gang and stay in our homes at night, worried sick about what their next moves may be. They shout and swear at anyone who walks past and become increasingly obnoxious, the more drink they have had.
“We often find fences broken and a few people have discovered scratches on their cars which must be down to these gangs. But we can’t prove that – when we are around they just content themselves with being thoroughly intimidating,” he said.
“The parents on the estate are scared to let their children leave the house because of what they might say to them, and as for us, there’s no way we would start a family while this is going on,” he says.“In fact, even the blokes amongst us are reluctant to walk around after dark alone. Let alone the women. We are effectively prisoners in our own homes. We drive everywhere because there is an underlying sense that it would just not be safe to walk.”“Until you have lived it,” he said, “you can’t begin to imagine what life is like living with this over your head the whole time.”
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aju - 16-Jun-14 @ 5:45 AM
Anti-social behaviour in the community
Residents of sheltered accommodation were feeling intimidated by local youths outside the community centre.
The centre hosts a youth club, which had been meeting for a couple of years during which time the area had been subjected to a spate of distraction burglaries, leaving the residents very uneasy.
In addition to this, a group of youngsters had been gathering outside the centre on nights that the youth club was not operating, making a lot of noise and mess, and intimidating the residents and disrupting classes taking place in the centre.
The police were spending a lot of time responding to calls from residents. However, they were at a loss as to how to deal with the issues, as the residents could not name any individuals for referral to the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit and the offences were not of a criminal nature. Eventually, a referral was made to Voice by Northamptonshire Police Engagement Team.
The Restorative approach
An initial meeting was held with the local PCSO who identified four key residents and four key young people who he felt were influential over others. The residents and parents or guardians of the youngsters were approached and all agreed to working towards a face-to-face meeting.
An initial meeting was held with residents and the centre manager. It became apparent that no-one particularly wanted the youngsters to go away and all felt that, individually, they were nice young people. However, when they were in a group they were intimidating and did not show any respect for the centre or its surroundings.
The disruption of classes at the centre also led to concerns that organisers may find an alternative venue, thus causing loss of revenue. Their desired outcome was that the young people showed more respect to residents, made less noise, tidied up after themselves and took more care of the Centre. It was also apparent that their behaviour towards the Caretaker, who was deaf, could be described as a hate incident.
A meeting was then held with the youngsters and their parents or guardians. They did not mean the centre or the residents any harm and were sorry for causing distress. They were surprised that the caretaker had been upset as they all felt that they had got on well with her. The reason they wanted to gather around the centre was that they felt safe there and had been moved away from other areas in the past. What they really wanted was at least another night of youth club and also a youth shelter.
The Caretaker was apprehensive about meeting the young people and spent a while with the Voice signer trying to put her at ease. At this meeting she stated that she did not feel the young people were harassing her because she was deaf, but because of her response as she was became excitable. It was also apparent that there were a couple of particular individuals that were difficult.
The Caretaker stated she would like the young people to show more respect to the building, stop making so much mess, show a little more respect to others and to stop jeopardising the centre’s business. At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the caretaker would not take part in the conference.
Eventually a conference was held where both sides were able to put their point of view across. The main representative of the young people immediately apologised as they had not intended to intimidate the residents and had not realised they were doing so. The meeting resulted in understanding of each other side’s point of view and the youngsters agreed to keep the place tidier, keep noise down and do their best to influence the wider group.
Since the Restorative conference, complaints from the area have ceased. Subsequent meetings have been held with the youngsters and they have been given litter pickers to tidy up after themselves. Options for a youth shelter and also being prepared while conversations with a Youth Leader to allow an additional night of youth club are taking place.
Residents were invited to the youth club’s third birthday celebration and some did attend. Residents have also been spoken to since the conference and confirmed they’re happy with the outcome and the fact that there have been no issues since.