ON YOUR BEAT: Most ASBO cases nipped in the bud
EAST Cambridgeshire has seen its share of ASBOs imposed by magistrates determined to keep the yob culture of our streets. Here, Brian Tully, anti-social behaviour co-ordinator for East Cambs Community Safety Partnership, talks about his work. IT is easy
EAST Cambridgeshire has seen its share of ASBOs imposed by magistrates determined to keep the yob culture of our streets. Here, Brian Tully, anti-social behaviour co-ordinator for East Cambs Community Safety Partnership, talks about his work.
IT is easy to assume from reports in the national media that we are all falling victim to acts of anti-social behaviour.
In fact, East Cambs is a relatively quiet area and, although there are some hot-spots, you can be assured that we are not in the grip of an epidemic.
Our approach to the anti-social behaviour strategy is managed strategically by the East Cambs Community Safety Partnership - the multi-agency body with a statutory responsibility to reduce crime and disorder - and then at working level, by its subordinate East Cambs Anti Social Behaviour Group.
We manage anti-social behaviour in a structured progressive approach. The vast majority of potential ASBO cases are nipped in the bud by police officers doing their job. This means bringing the problem to the attention of the parents or guardians initially by letter, and then engaging face-to-face with the young person in the company of the parents or guardians to explain that the behaviour must stop. Where this approach fails and the anti-social behaviour continues, we invite the young person and the parents or guardians to meet formally with representatives from the Community Safety Partnership's Anti-Social Behaviour Group and review the apparent problem.
This usually results in an Acceptable Behaviour Contract, a voluntary agreement to cease the mis-behaviour. It is also the opportunity to offer structured help to the young person.
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For example we can provide individual counselling and assist with access to sporting activities. But if the voluntary process doesn't resolve the issue, we will then consider whether an ASBO is appropriate, either as a civil court matter, or in conjunction with an anticipated criminal prosecution by the Crown Prosecution Service.
Being the subject of an ASBO is not in itself a criminal offence, but breach of an ASBO is a criminal matter and can result in an arrest.
Last year, we concluded 20 Acceptable Behaviour Contracts - and of those, 14 worked (in that there was no re-offending). Of the six that failed, four were developed as ASBOs.
There are currently seven ASBOs in East Cambs, and of those five are working successfully.
The question is sometimes asked: 'Do ASBOs work?' My answer is that they do. It is a win-win situation, in that if the offending stops then that the primary objective has been met; and if it continues, then the breach of ASBO will enable the matter to be addressed formally via the courts.
One aim of the Community Safety Partnership is to achieve effective publicity, with the help of the local press. We do aim to publicise significant events, such as Anti Social Behaviour Orders, but strictly in accordance with the publicity ruling on each case at the magistrates court.
My objective is to reassure the community that effective action is being taken and ensure that any breaches are reported (not as an additional punishment).
We certainly don't have a plan to rack up numbers of ASBOs. That may seem to be the case in some areas of the country, but we are concerned to get the right approach for our community. There is no room for complacency, however, and we want to take all reasonable steps to contain any potential problems by nipping them in the bud. To this end, we do rely on the public reporting any instances of ASB so that we can build up the total picture.
n Any incidents should be telephoned to the 24-hour police reporting number on 0845 456 4564 or, of course, 999 in the case of emergency. My own telephone number for advice about anti-social behaviour in general is 01353 656641.