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Anti-Social Behaviour...a Labour legacy to be proud of

"Education, Education, Education" and "Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" are two quotes that, for me, define the early days of New Labour. The latter, arguably, being preoccupied by the issue of Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB). Seeing this article on the BBC News website today has put me in two minds about how important an issue it really is...surely there is a problem if neighbours are being driven to murder because of noise issues?

For a lot of us ASB was a fairly intangible and unfamiliar beast. Kids playing in the street, cherry knocking, throwing snow balls, playing football, and preoccupying themselves with outdoor activities were all to be expected and encouraged. Yet ASB can, and has, made lives miserable, forced people to move home, and in extreme cases led to people taking their own lives or the lives of others. So it needs to be taken seriously, but what is ASB, and who deals with it?

ASB is completely subjective, and it links hand in hand with the 'fear of crime' principle. Media coverage gives people free reign to let their imaginations run wild. Kids in the street become potential burglars. Throwing snow balls becomes a crime in case their is stones in them. Anyone wearing a hood becomes a likely robber. The lock on the front door goes from being a good defence against these troublesome youths to a loose piece of licorice that could be broken down by a loitering wind. I am mocking these situations merely to show one side of the argument here, the other side of the argument links in with the protection of vulnerable people, and dealing with situations early to prevent them from escalating.

As outsiders we have no idea why a person finds what we consider to be minor ASB so upsetting. Identifying and supporting vulnerable people is important, and when dealing with this apparently minor ASB gives the police, and partner agencies, the chance to engage with these people and make sure they are getting the help they need. Too often have we let down people who need us.

As i've already said, prolonged ASB can have a huge effect on peoples quality of lives...we all have the right to peaceful enjoyment of our home life. Its right that police, and partner agencies, deal with the minority that have a negative impact on their communities. Some critics say that Neighbourhood Policing is a waste of money, yet when you speak to someone who has been the victim of ASB you soon realise that its money well spent.

As with everything in the world, its all about looking for balance. ASB policies are designed to protect people, yet the law of unintended consequences means that we are making the streets a hostile place for all young people, and encouraging over reporting of some types of behaviour.

I have no doubt that the efforts put in to helping protect vulnerable people from the anti-social behaviour of others, others being both young and old, are worth every penny. Yet there is still a long way to go. The role of partner agencies is becoming increasingly recognised. It is not right that police take total responsibility for ASB, as partner agencies such as local authorities have a remit that can allow us to take a multi-pronged approach to dealing with ASB. This approach is proven to be much more effective.

The future of ASB is in the hands of local authorities, government departments and the Police...together they can more effectively protect the vulnerable from a crime who's effect has previously been under estimated. Lets hope that the current economic climate doesn't undo all the good work that police forces and local councils have done to tackle this issue.