#036/2010 – Recovering our streets and our peace: HMIC calls for new approach to restore civility to public spaces

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary today reveals the scale of damage from anti-social behaviour to our way of life and what the police can do to improve their response.

In the most comprehensive study to date, HMIC working with, Ipsos MORI and Cardiff University, has found that ASB is widespread. People who suffer adjust their lives to avoid it, a significant number suffer repeatedly, and high levels of intimidation can occur if they report it to the police.

Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, said: “We all want civility restored to society and the public rely heavily on the police to help this happen. But the police cannot do this on their own. The public won’t tackle anti-social behaviour on the streets while they fear reprisals. Perpetrators need to know they are wrecking lives, the results can be tragic and that they will get swift action from the authorities if the public call for help.”

HMIC’s work shows that when the police take swift action, the public are very satisfied. But the police do not always attend calls for help and their systems are not always able to identify repeat callers or the most vulnerable.

Sir Denis added: “Officers are not always equipped with the information they need, and a limited review of partnerships raises concern about the speed with which they achieve results for victims. I am calling on the police, at the very least, to publish their data and enable the public to see the progress they are making.

“HMIC’s work provides the evidence needed for a more ambitious ASB strategy to turn the tide on this problem, based around greater police availability, action-orientated partnerships and community involvement.”

The study reveals:

ASB is prevalent in society – more than a quarter of incidents are reported to the police, but this amounts to around 3.5 million calls a year. This compares with 4.3 million recorded crimes.

ASB impacts on people’s lives – there have been a small number of recent high profile cases in which there were tragic consequences. Our survey of 5,699 people who had contacted the police about ASB sheds light on the wider impacts:

  • People avoid public spaces, don’t stay out at night and steer clear of groups of youths.
  • People are intimidated; 32% experienced intimidation after standing up to ASB and for those with a disability this rose to 43%.
  • Some people suffer more than others; a large proportion suffer from ASB repeatedly. 71% of our survey had called the police about ASB more than once in the past year. Of those who felt the need to call the police, a disproportionate number indicated they had a long-term illness, disability or infirmity (29%). People living in deprived areas are more likely to experience ASB repeatedly.

What Works…

Police availability – the public depend heavily on the police – 90% in our survey thought the police were responsible for dealing with ASB. When the police take action, which in most cases means attending calls from the public, very high levels of satisfaction are achieved; 83% of people who were aware the police had taken action were satisfied with the action taken. HMIC’s work, “Valuing the Police”, published in July, found that only 11% of police are available for the public and put forward ways to improve police presence.

Prioritising resources well – police assess the risk of harm to callers and decide whether they will attend and if they need to attend as quickly as possible (a process called “grading”). HMIC’s research indicates that although all 43 forces now state ASB as a priority, they are not all able to prioritise repeat victims and those most at risk of harm. Presently, only 13 forces can effectively identify these individuals when they call.

Equipping officers with information and resources to act – certain police practices have a significantly positive outcome for victims. They are; briefings for staff dealing with ASB (21 forces were doing this); tracking what happens locally (17 forces were doing this) and ensuring neighbourhood policing teams know how to tackle ASB (33 forces were doing this).

What Doesn’t Work…

“Grading-out” ASB calls – although all 43 police forces in England and Wales now state ASB is a priority, they treat it differently to “crime”. Problems that are not considered criminal are often discounted as “not real police work”. The public, on the other hand, do not distinguish between crime and ASB. All forces “grade-out” low priority calls, which means they do not get a police response. Only 13 forces were able to identify and therefore prioritise both repeat and vulnerable victims of ASB.

Lengthy partnership processes – police need to work with partners to solve some problems. However, HMIC’s research indicates that partnership working can take too long to make a difference for the victim. Action alone is not enough, it needs to be swift.

What Could be Done…

  • Publish accessible and comparable data on ASB
  • Review Graded Response – especially where systems do not readily identify repeat callers
  • Urgently review the outcomes being achieved by Community Safety Partnerships for victims and the timeliness in which they act
  • Focus on what works and what doesn’t, taking account of the impact of slow or no action
  • Intervene early – an early intervention strategy to nip much more of the problem in the bud


Notes to editors:

  1. To bid for an interview with Sir Denis O’Connor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, or one of Her Majesty’s regional inspectors, please contact the HMIC press office on 020 7802 1824 / 1825/ 1826 / 1827/ 1828 / 1821 / 1822 or email the press office – HMICPressOffice@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk (e-mail address).
  2. The work referenced in this press notice is available on the HMIC website from 00.01 Thursday 23rd September 2010. For embargoed copies of the below reports, please contact the HMIC press office.

    “Anti-social Behaviour: Stop the Rot”. This HMIC overview report sets out the implications for police and partners if measures recommended by HMIC are not adopted.

    “Re-thinking the policing of anti-social behaviour 2010 – a research report by Professor Martin Innes of Universities Police Science Institute at Cardiff University”. This HMIC commissioned report draws together HMIC’s inspection findings, the Ipsos MORI victim survey results, and information from the British crime Survey of 07/08 and 08/09, and crime and ASB rates from Home Office statistics.

    “Policing anti-social behaviour; The public perspective 2010 – Ipsos MORI 2010”. This HMIC commissioned report surveyed victims who had reported ASB to the police during September 2009. The survey was conducted in May and June 2010 and involved 5,699 respondents.

    “HMIC ASB inspection findings 2010”. HMIC inspected each of the 43 forces in England and Wales in June 2010 to determine how well the police understood ASB in their areas and consider how well the police responded to these problems.

    Two HMIC inspection reports: One for each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, detailing the results of our inspection focussing on the actions that tackle ASB and

    One for each of the 43 forces in England and Wales detailing the force level victim survey results.

  3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  4. HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 08.30am – 6.00pm Monday – Friday on 020 7802 1824. HMIC’s out of hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 0782 583 3222.
  5. Ipsos MORI’s press officer, Matt Flanders, can be contacted on 0207 347 3452