Anti-social behaviour (ASB) has become a high profile issue in recent years. Where it takes hold, it can pose a serious threat to community life, undermining people’s sense of safety, their well-being and, ultimately, their health. Evidence suggests that if swift action is taken to deal with it, it is less likely to recur. Conversely, incidents that may be relatively minor in themselves can have a serious cumulative impact if left unchecked. Small problems can escalate into bigger ones.
Tackling anti-social behaviour is a high priority for national and local government. As a regulatory activity, dealing with many of its lower-level manifestations - noise nuisance, dumped rubbish, abandoned cars, graffiti and fly-posting etc. – have fallen to Environmental Health departments and EHPs are in the front line of efforts to protect communities from its impacts.
Definition of ASB
The Home Office typology of anti-social behaviour categorises it under four core areas, according to whether the behaviour occurs in a public space, whether it has a direct or an indirect victim, and whether it impacts on the environment.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 contains different definitions of anti-social behaviour for different purposes. These definitions encompass a variety of behaviours covering a whole complex of activities which may be unacceptable in different contexts. Incidents do not necessarily have to be criminal in themselves, nor do they have to be recorded by the police to be classed as anti-social behaviour.
Dealing with ASB
Many of the behaviours and activities under the definition of ASB will fall into an environmental health practitioners’ regular caseload. Some broad information on the powers available to them in dealing with it can be found in the following Home Office publication:
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Reform of anti-social behaviour powers Statutory guidance for frontline professionals - July 2014
A toolkit - Anti-Social Behaviour: A Toolkit for Environmental Health Practitioners – was published jointly by the CIEH and the Home Office Anti-social Behaviour Unit in September 2005 and updated in 2006. Though some of its detail has been overtaken by the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, it may still be useful to guide EHPs in this aspect of their work.
Further information on the legislation can be found in a series of Home Office information notes covering various aspects of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, including one on noisy neighbours.
Usually on a larger scale, and often with a financial motive, environmental crimes such as unlicensed waste burning, fly-tipping and metal theft can have serious effects on the environment and on public health and safety. Local authorities have a role to play in combatting these but multi-agency initiatives, involving the Police and the Environment Agency are often needed.
More information on some kinds of environmental crime can be found on the following GOV.UK page:
Protecting and enhancing our urban and natural environment to improve public health and wellbeing