OPINION: Karin Smyth MP on anti-social behaviour in Bristol South

(Newspaper column as seen in the Pigeon November 2019)

More and more people are contacting me about ongoing anti-social behaviour in Bristol South. It was one of the main themes I picked up on in my summer policing survey and was something which came up repeatedly during the time I spent shadowing the police last year.

What do we mean by anti-social behaviour? Anti-social behaviour refers to unacceptable activities which make our communities feel less safe and leave individuals feeling distressed – things such as intimidation, vandalism, street drinking and drug abuse, graffiti, fly-tipping. Where a lot of anti-social behaviour used to be relatively low-level, the cases I’m seeing now tend to be more extreme.

My office regularly deals with complaints about anti-social behaviour from across the constituency. We speak to the police and local authorities to try and resolve things for constituents, but it’s rarely straightforward.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 gave the police, local authority and housing associations new powers to deal with persistent anti-social behaviour, including acceptable behaviour contracts based on mediation and, if needed, civil injunctions. These measures are designed to stop problems getting worse.

The mechanisms are available, but the resource is not. Government cuts have hit both policing and local authorities hard. By missing the opportunity to intervene early on, it can lead to months and months of misery for residents and, at the end of an expensive and lengthy battle, prison for the perpetrators.

The police are expected to pick up the strain of cuts to services such as children’s centres, youth provision, NHS services – particularly mental health – and other support agencies around domestic violence and addiction. Yet they are subject to similar crippling budget cuts.

You responded to my summer survey highlighting anti-social behaviour as one of your main concerns. You want to see more police officers on the streets and better investment in community and youth services and education and in drug and alcohol rehabilitation services to tackle this.

I want the police and local authority to have the resources they need to use what powers available to them and use these rigorously; nipping anti-social behaviour in the bud before it gets completely out of control. I’ve spoken about this in parliament – urging the government to look at how we’re tackling anti-social behaviour – and I will continue to speak up about this.

If you’re living with the impact of anti-social behaviour, I’d urge you to report it to the police online or by calling 101. You can also contact me by emailing karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk – I’d be very interested to hear about your experience of anti-social behaviour in your area.