Perpetrators of anti-social behaviour will face swift and visible justice, increased fines and enhanced drug testing as part of a new crackdown launched by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today (Monday 27 March).
Delivering on the Prime Minister’s pledge earlier this year to clamp down on these crimes, the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan will make sure this issue is treated with the urgency it deserves, establish a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of anti-social behaviour, and give the police and local authorities the tools they need to tackle the problem.
Under the plan, 16 areas in England and Wales will be funded to support either new ‘hotspot’ police and enforcement patrols in areas with the highest rates of anti-social behaviour, or trial a new ‘Immediate Justice’ scheme to deliver swift and visible punishments. A select few areas will trial both interventions, and following these initial trailblazers, both schemes will be rolled out across England and Wales from 2024.
Hotspot trailblazer areas will see an increase in police presence alongside other uniformed authority figures, such as wardens, in problem areas for anti-social behaviour, including public transport, high streets or parks. The increased presence will help deter anti-social behaviour, step up enforcement action against offenders, make sure crimes are punished more quickly and drive deterrence efforts, helping to stop anti-social behaviour spiralling into more serious criminality.
Under the new Immediate Justice scheme, those found committing anti-social behaviour will be made to repair the damage they inflicted on victims and communities, with an ambition for them to start work as soon as 48 hours after their offence so victims know anti-social behaviour is treated seriously and with urgency.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:
Anti-social behaviour undermines the basic right of people to feel safe in the place they call home.
The public have rightly had enough – which is why I am determined to restore people’s confidence that those responsible will be quickly and visibly punished.
This action plan maps out how we will tackle this issue with the urgency it deserves and stamp out these crimes once and for all – so that wherever you live, you can feel safe in, and proud of your community.
Offenders, who will be made to wear high-vis vests or jumpsuits and work under supervision, could be made to pick up litter, remove graffiti and wash police cars as punishment for their actions, and victims of anti-social behaviour from the local community will be given a say in offenders’ punishments to ensure justice is visible and fits the crime. The trailblazers will be launched as soon as possible and follow research that shows anti-social behaviour is the main reason people do not feel safe in their local area.
Under the zero-tolerance approach, Nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” will also be banned to send a clear message to intimidating gangs, that hang around high streets and children’s parks and litter them with empty canisters, they will not get away with this behaviour. The drug is now the third most used among 16 to 24-year-olds in England and both the police and public have repeatedly reported links between use of the drug and nuisance or anti-social behaviour.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said:
The British public are fed up with crime and nuisance behaviour in their neighbourhoods inflicting misery on people.
There is no such thing as petty crime – not only does anti-social behaviour leave people feeling unsafe, it can also be a gateway into serious criminality.
It has always been my priority to give police the powers they need to deliver a common-sense approach to cutting crime, which puts the law-abiding majority first, and that’s what this action plan delivers.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove said:
Anti-social behaviour erodes local pride, blights our high streets and parks and is a stain on too many communities across the country.
We know that it is more likely to flourish in areas that have, for too long, been overlooked and undervalued.
This government was elected on a mandate to deliver change for those communities, and that is why the Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan is critical. So we will intervene directly to prevent high street dereliction. We will deliver tougher, quicker and more visible justice to prevent thuggish behaviour in town centres and we will ensure young people have the opportunities and activities available to them to succeed – all backed by new investment.
This is about acting on the people’s priorities, delivering safer streets so we can level up across the country.
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said:
I want every young person to have the opportunity to access the kinds of life-changing activities which expand their horizons and allow them to develop vital life skills.
The National Youth Guarantee will provide these opportunities and support young people with access to regular club activities, adventures away from home and volunteering opportunities.
We are supporting this today with an investment to create or renovate spaces for youth clubs and activities to support opportunities for thousands of young people across the country who would otherwise miss out.
Police will also be given new powers to crack down on illegal drug use, often a catalyst for other crimes, including expanding powers for drug testing on arrest so more suspected criminals can be tested, and more drugs tested for, including ecstasy and methamphetamine. Currently, only suspected criminals who have committed certain offences can be tested in police detention without additional requirements, but we will expand the range of trigger offences to include crimes linked to violence against women and girls, serious violence and anti-social behaviour.
A new reporting tool will also be developed over the next twelve months to act as a digital one-stop shop where people can quickly and easily report incidents of anti-social behaviour when these occur. The tool will help address problems people have faced when trying to report these sorts of crimes because of a lack of clarity around how to raise an issue or who to speak to, or a lack of confidence that these crimes will be dealt with seriously.
As well as being able to report any type of anti-social behaviour, people will have access through the tool to advice and guidance on what to do next in their cases and receive updates on what action is being taken by local police and councils following a report being logged. As well as giving the public confidence that action is being taken, the tool will help support local agencies to share information on perpetrators within their local area more effectively, so they can more quickly identify repeat offenders and take the necessary action to prevent future crimes from happening in the first place
Other measures announced today include:
- Increasing the punishment for those who graffiti, litter or fly tip with fines of up to £500 and £1,000- council league tables will be published for fly tipping, and we will work with the Office for Local Government to increase transparency and improve accountability on anti-social behaviour outcomes
- Giving landlords and housing associations more powers to evict unruly tenants who ruin their neighbours’ lives through persistent noise or by being drunk and disorderly
- Reopening empty shops by giving councils new powers to quickly take control and sell off empty buildings
- An anti-social behaviour Taskforce jointly led by the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Levelling Up will bring together national and local partners, with a sole focus of addressing anti-social behaviour and restoring pride in place in communities. This will bring together Police and Crime Commissioners, police and local partners and agencies
- An extra one million hours of youth services in areas with the highest rates of anti-social behaviour to put people on the right track and prevent them from offending in the first place
- Tackling the awful practice of ‘cuckooing’ or home invasion by engaging with stakeholders on the scope of a potential new criminal offence
- Parks and green spaces will also be restored with up to £5 million to make them safer with new CCTV and repairing equipment and playgrounds, and to plant more trees and flowers
Nobody should be criminalised simply for having nowhere to live which is why government committed to repealing the antiquated Vagrancy Act, passed in 1824. This comes alongside last year’s unprecedented £2 billion commitment over three years to accelerate efforts to end rough sleeping for good.
It will be made an offence for criminal gangs to organise begging networks for extra cash, which is often used to facilitate illegal activities. To ensure police and local councils can address activity which is intimidating or causes the public distress, they will have the tools to direct people causing nuisance on the street, including obstructing shop doorways and begging by cash points, towards the support they need, such as accommodation, mental health or substance misuse services. The debris and paraphernalia which causes blight will then be cleared.
The Government has also today announced that an additional 43 youth centres are to benefit from the next £90 million investment from the Youth Investment Fund, distributed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. As a result, 45,000 more young people a year will have access to state-of-the-art facilities and regular, out-of-school activities, as part of an overall £300 million to be distributed through 2025. From Lincolnshire to Liverpool, Peterborough to Portsmouth, the Government’s National Youth Guarantee will support the wellbeing of young people in some of the country’s most underserved areas, giving them opportunities to develop vital skills for life, and empowering them to be active members of their community.
The new cross-government action plan builds on the Government’s focus to deliver common sense policing, backed by an unprecedented recruitment drive of 20,000 additional officers by the end of March, which we are on track to achieve. It works in tandem with our priorities to drive down murder rates, tackle serious violence – including against women and girls – and solve and prevent more burglaries.
Neighbourhood crimes like burglary, robbery and theft have dropped by 24% since December 2019 but government wants this driven down further and to see more burglaries solved, which is why the Home Secretary called for police forces in England and Wales to send an officer to attend every domestic burglary.
The Government has also funded 216 projects via rounds one and two of the Levelling Up Fund, totally £3.8 billion, which is driving the regeneration of town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport and investing cultural and heritage assets.