This catch-all term encompasses a wide range of behaviour – some of it may be criminal, like graffiti and flytipping – and some, like parking on yellow lines, may not be – but it is something that bothers too many of our residents.
When asked which of 21 policing issues residents of Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly wanted more investment in ASB came out top, with 55% of people saying they wanted more to be done about it. Nationally 45% of people say ASB is a problem where they live, according to the Neighbourhood Watch Association, and they are right to be concerned about it.
Left unchecked in some cases ASB has spiralled out of control to the point where serious crimes, even murders, have been committed. Early reporting is vital, but frustratingly most of those who witness ASB or who have been a victim (56%) did not report it to anyone.
Perhaps that is because recognising what is ASB can be difficult and what constitutes it can be subjective. Noise nuisance including loud music and banging at unsocial hours; household disputes; harassment and environmental antisocial behaviour like rubbish dumping are all ASB. People doing DIY or children playing at reasonable times of the day and bad parking are examples of activities which often get reported as ASB but which probably aren’t.
Both councils and police have responsibilities to tackling ASB, and unless it is an emergency your local authority ASB team is a good place to start. These exist at Torbay, Plymouth and Cornwall’s unitary councils and at Devon’s district councils.
Unfortunately some of our city and town centres have some real challenges with ASB at the moment. Street drinking, drug dealing and fighting are too often creating environments which are unpleasant for the vast majority of us and creating issues for the businesses upon which we all rely on for thriving and healthy urban centres.
It is essential that the police work hand in hand with councils to tackle this. I fully support Chief Constable Will Kerr’s decision to put more visible police patrols into problem areas and, with the support of our residents through increases to the policing precept, have ensured he has the budget to maintain record force strength of 3,610 officers.
My office has been really successful in obtaining Safer Streets funding to support efforts to tackle ASB and create safer spaces for us to enjoy. Last week I visited Torquay’s CCTV control room, which is one of those around the peninsula to benefit from investment secured by my team, and we helped promote an initiative that has created a ‘safe space’ for women at night in Exeter. In total almost £5m has been secured from this fund for Devon and Cornwall, with Falmouth, Plymouth, Torbay, Exeter, Barnstaple and Truro all benefitting.
I have also commissioned an ASB outreach team of experts who are heading out and engaging with some of those accused of causing a nuisance.
And I am working with councils who have been making use of legislation which gives them and police extra powers to tackle problems. As I write this Plymouth City Council is asking residents whether they support an extension of a three-year Public Spaces Protection Order which was put in place in 2020.
Those found in breach of the order are placed on the anti-social behaviour escalation process, a system that ensures not only that enforcement is considered for repeat offenders, but also looks at what support can be offered by services to address any underlying issues. Other communities also have these zones in place and they are a really effective part of the solution.
So, while ASB is a significant cause for concern, there is a huge amount going on to tackle it in the region, and plenty of help and advice available for people whose lives are being blighted by it.
If you are unsure of where to go the organisation ASB Help has some great information on its website - asbhelp.co.uk, and Victim Support has a 24/7 helpline 0808 1689 111.
If you have already raised a concern and feel you are getting nowhere your case may be eligible for a Community Trigger Review, which brings together partners to look at whether enough has been done in specific cases. Information on how this, and the role my office plays in it, is available on my website at www.devonandcornwall-pcc.gov.uk/about-us/community-trigger.
Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence and don’t let things escalate.