Monday, 5 August 2013


Anti-social behavior? England in the 2010's seems ... well ... so 1970's Soviet Union.  Here is Article 65 from 1977 Soviet Union Constitution: A citizen of the USSR is obliged to respect the rights and lawful interests of other persons, to be uncompromising toward anti-social behavior, and to help maintain public order.  In the East German crackdown on dissenters in 1988 charges ranged from rowdyism and anti-social behavior to treason and working with agents of capitalism (for which sentences of 12 years were proposed).

Anti-Social behavior was a widely identified “evil” in the Soviet Union, East Germany and other Eastern Bloc countries.  It did not mean just political dissent; it was most often a diatribe for rebellious youth, long haired hippies, cultural outliers, etc.

What happened when the Evil Empire fall apart.  After It died in the East it was reincarnated in the following decade in the U.K.  Something similar to Article 65 would probably be included in a new UK constitution; since the UK does not have a constitution per se, equivalent provisions appear in a variety of different acts.

A review of local English newspapers shows that the scourge of the land is anti-social behavior.  In the July 16, 2013 edition of the Skegness Review it was reported that the Neighbourhood Policing Team had appealed for information after two ‘pre-teen’ children threw stones and ‘other objects’ at properties in the town on Sunday.  PCSO Dave Bunker “The males are known to have been on Church Road North, Skegness as well as the locations where they were reportedly acting anti socially,” 

The Gloucestershire Gazette on June 3 informed its readers that drink-related crime and anti-social behaviour in Dursley was being targeted by police during the summer as children finish school for the year. Inspector Andy Poole said: "It is essential that those engaged in anti-social activities are challenged regarding their behaviour.”   

Bradford Telegraph on the same day reported that police were putting extra officers on patrol in the City Park during school holidays after an increase in anti-social behaviour and that the City Ward Neighbourhood Policing Team drafted in more police community support officers to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in the city centre and the inner city communities of Little Horton.  What is anti-social behavior in Bradford.  The paper said “The problems have consisted of the anti-social use of skateboards, alcohol misuse and large groups of youths congregating, which can be intimidating to other members of the public.”

On July 8, 2013 the Wirral Globe announced that police across Merseyside had launched a six-week crackdown on the anti-social use of scrambler bikes.  Operation Brookdale will centre on areas where communities have suffered from the illegal and anti-social use of scrambler and quad bikes. It was said that riders of these bikes have “a complete disregard for decent, law-abiding members in their communities.”

Cambridge News on July 2 told about worried residents despatching police to tackle anti-social behaviour in a Cambridgeshire village – but all officers found was a smiley face daubed on a bus stop.  The police account said: “We received a report of graffiti on the bus stop in High Street, Linton. PCSO Pulley went to examine this and found a smiley face painted on. There was no other damage. PCSO Pulley has been liaising with the parish council regarding this.”  In a less repressive England this would have been a Monty Python skit. 

Stratford-upon-Avon Herald on  June 13, 2013 noted that according to a recent vote that Stratford people want the police to focus more on anti-social behaviour than road safety. Police asked residents to vote both online and at the town’s community forum the previous week for what they wanted officers to focus on for the ensuing three months. “Now the votes have been counted, the top two policing priorities are to reduce anti-social behaviour in the town centre and on the Bancroft Gardens and to reduce anti-social behaviour outside the town centre, on Shottery Fields and on the housing estates.”   The Stratford police had been given new powers to ban “intimidating” groups of people from the town centre for 24 hours which the paper thought seemed to tie in with the concerns of residents. 

Horncastle News on June 8 appeared happy to advise that police in Horncastle had taken swift and decisive action to deal with an increase in reports of anti social behaviour involving vehicles. Inspector Terry Ball, head of policing in the Wolds Area, revealed residents had complained about noise and anti-social behaviour in St Lawrence Street and Tesco car park.  Inspector Ball went on to reveal high level patrols were continuing to help combat anti social behaviour in Coningsby and Tattershalll.  Again it appeared that it was young people who were targeted as Ball confirmed ten warning letters had been issued to youths who had been involved in incidents in the vicinity of Coningsby launderette.

Watford Observer on July 29, 2013 advised that two employees from a grounds maintenance company would be able to request the name and address of anyone they suspect of causing anti-social behaviour and confiscate alcohol from those underage after being given policing powers by Hertfordshire Constabulary.  The John O’Conner Grounds Maintenance employees were given the limited powers under the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme on Tuesday, July 23.  Hertfordshire Constabulary's community safety manager, Sally Russell, added: "We are pleased to welcome these two council contractors into the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme and to facilitate them being able to deal more effectively with anyone causing anti-social behaviour.  The Scheme continues to grow successfully and to play an important role in the delivery of effective policing in many neighbourhoods. Above all, it assists in providing an effective and efficient contribution to the safety and security of Hertfordshire’s residents."

There will be no street parties in Sheffield as the Star reports on July 30 that a dispersal order has been granted for the Fir Vale and Firth Park areas of Sheffield, giving police officers extra powers to split up groups on street corners in a crackdown on anti-social behaviour.  The dispersal order was made because residents complained to South Yorkshire Police and Sheffield Council about the behaviour of groups congregating on the streets.  The order gives police and police community support officers the right to split up groups of two or more people to reduce the risk of trouble.  Apparently it did not concern the good citizens or the authorities whether the groups were doing anything criminal or were just hanging around.

The law says that someone is behaving in an antisocial manner if they are acting in a manner that is causing, or is likely to cause, alarm or distress, or they are doing several things over a period of time that cause, or are likely to cause, alarm or distress to at least one person living in another household.  This definition also covers verbal abuse, so if someone has been shouting and swearing at another person or even saying things which make others feel uneasy, then it could be classed as antisocial behaviour under the law.

The South Kesteven District Council has its own definition of Anti Social Behaviour.  It is behaviour by an individual or group that results in another party feeling personally threatened or which creates a public nuisance, or which has a detrimental impact upon the environment and thereby has a detrimental effect upon the quality of life of an individual or the community as a whole.  They also have a definition for a “Vulnerable Victim of Anti Social Behaviour”.  A Vulnerable Victim a vulnerable person is one whose experience and/or effect of harm as a result of the incident is likely to be more significant because of their individual personal circumstances.  This is about a subjective a test as you will find anywhere.  Feel sorry for the hapless soul whose path crosses the extremely sensitive person who can be upset about pretty much anything - a look on someone’s face, an “excuse me” said in the wrong way, a piece of clothing that symbolizes something that the victim doesn’t like. 

It is interesting that most of the above mentioned stories about policing anti-social behavior were in newspapers serving small towns or suburbs, rather than big cities.  The targets of anti-social policing are not just tough inner city gangs.

What else can we conclude about the policing of so-called anti-social behavior in the UK.  The anti-social behavior which is the subject of dispersal orders often seems very vague.  It is not limited to public drunkenness but extends to any behavior that could be considered impolite by “decent, law-abiding citizens”. Are there really that many obnoxious people on the High Streets of small town England.  Or is the term obnoxious people almost synonomous with youth.  The U.K’s decent, law-abiding citizens just don’t like young people just “hanging around” or having a good time.  

This kind of obsession with “ant-social behavior” is not present in the United States or Canada.  Youth are not targeted just because they hang around.

New Labour introduced the anti-social behavior law and its ASBO’s to the U.K.  The Conservatives promised to change things but their new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill creates a set of tougher, and even easier to obtain, measures to tackle so-called anti-social behaviour. 

The Children's Society in the U.K. notes that the government has in fact worsened anti-social behaviour measures for children.  They declare “We fear that the measures could seriously affect the way children go about living their everyday lives.”

The bill will replace the ASBO with a new injunction to known as an IPNA (Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance). This injunction greatly increases the scope of the types of behaviour that are subject to anti-social behaviour measures and can be used for children as young as 10 if they behave in a way that is capable of causing "nuisance and annoyance". This is instead of causing "harassment, alarm and distress", as defined by ASBOs.  It is obvious that causing “nuisance and annoyance” can cover a huge range of normal childhood behaviour and will result in many more children being drawn into the criminal justice system.

The excerpts from English newspaper articles about policing anti-social behavior illustrate that it is really about policing young people.  It was noted by the Children’s Society in response to the IPNAs that the very low threshold for policing measures will extend over a huge range of typical childhood behavior.  Now “those annoying teenagers hanging around malls or on the street can now be dealt with by authorities.  “The breach of an injunction can result in a joyless jail term for those 14 and over in other words, the teenager can be put in prison for not actually having committed a criminal offense, but just having annoyed somebody.” The conviction for an antisocial behavioral offence can also lead to the criminal behavior order and up to two years of imprisonment.

Even children younger than ten can be targeted for anti-social behavior.  The Daily Mail reported that a police community support officer wrote several letters to the parents of Ellie-Louise Cox, aged four, and her sister Isabel, seven, complaining about their children’s (and that of neighbor three year old, Caidence Leadbetter’s) anti-social behaviour’ near homes in Smiths Wood, Solihill. The letters said elderly neighbours had complained of 'minor damage' to trees, the 'trampling of plants' and 'slightly intimidating behaviour'.  The letters from the  PCSO from the Solihull Police observed: “Reports have been received about a rise in anti-social behaviour”.  The police regretfully stated “There was no mention of Asbos in the letter and, legally, we cannot issue the orders to anyone under 10-years-old”.

It would be nice to say that these draconic youth targeting laws are simply the work of evil UK politicians and do not have general public support but that is not the case because “teenagers hanging around” has been the item which provoked the most continuous concern in the population in the British Crime Survey from 2004 to 2009.  Preteens and teens can be very annoying and often are a nuisance.  So what do you do about it?  You pass a law to lock them up.  The U.K. Gulag for children.


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