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Wednesday 28th July 2010 | 13:17
Home secretary Theresa May's speech on alcohol-related crime
Thank you Helen [Baroness Newlove].
May I say congratulations on your appointment to the
House of Lords. I’m delighted that you will now be able to
continue your excellent campaigning work from within
And it’s appropriate, I think, that we are here in the Coin
Street Community Centre - a real beacon of community
action and the same place that David Cameron has
previously set out our plans to strengthen our local
Because there is nowhere – not any single area of
government policy – where we need strong, local
community action more than in tackling anti-social
History of ASB
Some people seem to believe anti-social behaviour is just
a bit of a nuisance – a fact of modern life – but I believe it
is time for us to stop tolerating it. Anti-social behaviour
ruins neighbourhoods and can escalate into serious
criminality, destroying good people’s lives.
People like Helen’s husband, Garry Newlove, who was
attacked and brutally murdered after having the courage to
confront a group of drunken vandals.
People like Fiona Pilkington, who was terrorised and
tormented by a gang of youths for many years, crying out
for help on no fewer than 33 occasions before, finally, she
could take no more.
But behind those horrific headlines are the many
thousands of others whose everyday lives are blighted by
Around one person in every seven believes their local
area suffers from high-levels of anti-social behaviour.
And as well as the millions of tarnished lives, the financial
cost of dealing with anti-social behaviour is estimated at
billions of pounds a year.
We also know anti-social behaviour can be a precursor to
more serious offending – over a quarter of young people
who reported committing anti-social behaviour in one year
started to offend the very next.
On top of all that, many people do not even report anti-
social behaviour - we think around three-quarters goes
unreported. The evidence suggests that this is because
they are so confident that the state will not deal with their
problem that they don’t even bother with the phone call.
But even after adding in all those unreported incidents, the
very real picture of huge variations between local areas is
still masked. Over one in four people in the most deprived
areas perceive a high level of anti-social behaviour, nearly
five times higher than the level in the most affluent.
Because fundamentally, anti-social behaviour is an
extremely localised issue – down to some streets in a
neighbourhood having a problem, where the next street
along does not.
Of course, with such an obvious problem even the last
government could not ignore it.
They knew they had to do something, but as with so much
they did, their top-down, bureaucratic, gimmick-laden
approach just got in the way of the police, other
professionals and the people themselves from taking
Such a centralised approach, imposed from Whitehall, can
never be the best way to deal with an inherently local
Rather than part of the solution, the previous
government’s focus on anti-social behaviour became part
of the problem.
The multitude of central government initiatives and
gimmicks meant that people expected the government to
deal with these issues.
Too often, the top-down approach of the past meant that
the police and the other agencies involved in tackling anti-
social behaviour at local level took their cue from central
government rather than the people they were meant to be
It is not for central government to tell local police and local
councils what to do – but people thought it was, because
that’s exactly what the last government always did. The
public started thinking “why is the government not doing
something?” rather than thinking “what can I do?” They
waited for the slow machine of the state to crank up and
intervene, rather than getting on, getting out there and
doing it themselves.
We need to re-establish that sense of personal and social
We need to make anti-social behaviour what it once was –
unusual, abnormal and something to stand up to – instead
of what it has become – frequent, normal and tolerated.
To do this, the people who are closest to the problem
need to be driving the solution. Not civil servants in
And success will not be measured by how much more
money has been spent, how much media coverage has
been generated or how many new and clever initiatives
have been started.
Success will be measured by how successful we are at
cutting crime and cutting anti-social behaviour – no more
and no less.
Today I will set out how we can do that.
We must turn the system on its head.
For 13 years, politicians told us that the government had
the answer; that the ASBO was the silver bullet that would
cure all society’s ills.
Life is more complex than that.
There is no magic Whitehall lever we can pull simply to
stop anti-social behaviour. No magic button to press or tap
to turn to stop the flow of misery. The solution to your
community’s problems will not come from officials sitting in
the Home Office working on the latest national action plan.
They will come from the homes of our citizens, from the
heads of our police officers, council employees and
housing associations, and from the hearts of our social
We will put power into the hands of our citizens. We will
put our trust into the professionals.
And we expect everybody to take responsibility, take
action, get involved, tell the police and the other agencies
what’s going on, and hold them to account for what they
do about it.
In making this case, I’m not saying that there is no role for
government. We’re not going to just walk away and leave
you to it.
Of course the government has a role in galvanising the
culture shift we need in this country to deal with anti-social
That goes wider than just tackling the visible symptoms of
what is, in reality, a much deeper social disease. It’s about
dealing with some of the root causes.
It’s about dealing with worklessness and reforming
welfare: there are 1.4 million young people under 25 who
are not working or in full-time education. They want to
make something of their lives, and we have to help them
We will provide incentives for unemployed people to make
work pay and we will create a Work Programme which will
offer targeted, personalised help for those who need it
It’s about regaining discipline in our schools, putting
teachers back in control of the classroom by stripping
away the bureaucracy that far too often prevents them
from maintaining good behaviour.
We will simplify and toughen up guidance and legislation
so that teachers can ensure better behaviour and can
create an environment where teachers can teach and
children can learn.
And it’s about encouraging young people to take
responsibility for their communities, which National Citizen
Service will help do, inspiring an entire generation to
appreciate what they can achieve.
We will provide around 10,000 young people from different
backgrounds with places on residential courses next
summer to develop life skills, understand the concept of
civic responsibility and, we hope, reject anti-social
behaviour and criminality.
These are just some of the measures in our programme
for government that will help cure the ills affecting our
Alcohol and Licensing Reform
But there is one over-riding problem that contributes more
to violent crime and anti-social behaviour than anything
Last year there were almost one million violent crimes that
were alcohol-related and around half of all violent crime
was considered alcohol-related by victims.
Nearly 7 million attendances at hospital accident and
emergency services are estimated to be alcohol-related, at
a cost of around 650 million pounds per year to the
More than a million ambulance call outs each year are
estimated to be alcohol-related, at a cost of around 370
million pounds per year.
Overall, the total costs of alcohol-related crime and
disorder to the taxpayer are estimated to be between 8
and 13 billion pounds per year.
When the last government relaxed our licensing laws, they
promised us a continental-style café culture.
I was the Shadow Culture Secretary when Labour’s
Licensing Act was being introduced. I said at the time that
many people's lives were going to be made a misery,
especially those living near pubs. I told Parliament that
Labour was being reckless, in pressing ahead with longer
licensing hours without first dealing with the problems of
binge drinking. I was accused of scare mongering then. I
take no pleasure in being proved correct now.
Five years on, every Friday and Saturday night our police
fight an ongoing battle against booze-fuelled crime and
disorder, and our accident and emergency centres handle
So we will overhaul the Licensing Act to ensure that local
people have greater control over pubs, clubs and other
We will allow their local authority to charge more for late-
night licences, which they will then be able to plough back
into late-night policing in their area.
We will double the fine for under-age sales and allow
authorities to permanently shut down any shop or bar that
persistently sells alcohol to children.
We will ban the below cost sale of alcohol, to ensure that
retailers no longer sell alcohol at irresponsible prices.
And responsibility for licensing will return from the Culture
Department to the Home Office so we can join up
licensing policy with policing the consequences of drink-
The Police’s Role
Licensing reform is an important part of the story. But our
approach, unlike the last government’s, will be a coherent
and comprehensive one.
Central to our new approach will be the police becoming a
more responsive, active and accountable part of their local
The police are often the first port of call for victims of anti-
But they have not always taken anti-social behaviour
For example, Sir Denis O’Connor, Her Majesty’s Chief
Inspector of Constabulary, has found that the way many
police forces record information on anti-social behaviour
incidents was inadequate and limited their ability to identify
repeat victims and vulnerable victims.
As a result, officers attending reports of anti-social
behaviour are not always aware of the previous history.
This is basic stuff, but it is vitally important.
The radical policing reforms I announced on Monday will
help to build a strong new bridge between the police and
The police should focus on what local people want, not on
what politicians and civil servants in Westminster think
So we will replace bureaucratic accountability with
Directly-elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be
democratically accountable to local people. They will make
the police more responsive to local problems – or they’ll
face the ultimate sanction of rejection at the ballot box.
They will be active advocates for local people,
encouraging the police to deal with the anti-social
behaviour that matters to them.
But more than that, their role as Police and Crime
Commissioners will extend to working with others on
community safety, and I expect that dealing with anti-
social behaviour will be an important part of their work.
And we will help communities hold the police to account
by publishing detailed local crime data and mandating
regular beat meetings. And I’m keen to explore ways of
recording incidents of anti-social behaviour at a local level
One story sums up the change we need to bring. Jan
Berry’s report on reducing police bureaucracy tells us of a
police officer who reduced crime and disorder on his local
estate by 90% over six months. His thanks was simply a
telling off for not meeting his own personal arrest targets.
That is crazy, by anybody’s standards. But it happened
because the police officer and his superiors were
accountable not to the people they serve but the
It’s crazy and it’s got to change. Police officers need to be
trusted to use their discretion and professional judgement.
We want them to think on their feet, judge each case on its
merits and do what they believe is right.
Have no doubt, the police should back those who do the
right thing and they should punish those who do the wrong
thing. Anti-social behaviour – like crime – must always
But too often with the old approach, sanctions were not
followed through. Ineffective orders were issued, then
breached. Fines were issued, but not enforced. People got
away with it – and the victims knew it.
We want to ensure police officers have the discretion to
deal with anti-social behaviour in the way they think will be
most effective, both in meeting the needs of the victim and
the community, and in changing the behaviour in question.
Where a police officer believes it would be better for a less
serious wrong to be fixed with a more appropriate right –
to repair the damage that has been caused or to carry out
a positive community activity instead - and if the victim
supports it, then we say to the police officer: use your
judgement. That is how we will get common-sense
And we need common sense too, if we are to have a
simple, clear and effective sanctions regime.
Labour introduced a ludicrous list of powers for tackling
anti-social behaviour – the ISO, the ASBI, the ASBO and
the CRASBO. Crack house closure orders; dog control
orders; graffiti removal orders, litter and noise abatement
orders, housing injunctions and parenting orders. (And
that’s not even all of them!)
These sanctions were too complex and bureaucratic -
there were too many of them, they were too time
consuming and expensive and they too often criminalised
young people unnecessarily, acting as a conveyor belt to
serious crime and prison.
On top of this, their use varies hugely from area to area,
with practitioners tending to focus on the handful they are
most familiar with.
And if the professionals don’t understand them, then how
on earth are the perpetrators of anti-social behaviour
supposed to understand them? No wonder they don’t act
as a serious deterrent.
That is why I have launched a review of the anti-social
behaviour powers available to the police. I am determined
to give them and the other agencies a toolkit that is
appropriate and effective; with tools that are quick,
practical and easy to use.
Simpler sanctions, which are easier to obtain and to
enforce, will provide the police and practitioners with a firm
hand to tackle the problem cases.
Where possible, they should be rehabilitating and
restorative, rather than criminalising and coercive. But
where necessary, they should be tough and provide a real
Just this morning, the latest ASBO statistics have shown
that breach rates have yet again increased – more than
half are breached at least once, 40% are breached more
than once and their use has fallen yet again, to the lowest
It’s time to move beyond the ASBO.
We need a complete change in emphasis, with
communities working with the police and other agencies to
stop bad behaviour escalating that far.
Because tackling anti-social behaviour is not just
something for the police alone; it is not all about crime.
Local authority workers; social landlords; health and
education professionals; social services – they all need to
work together, and to work with the police, to tackle anti-
social behaviour in whatever form it takes.
Government has a role to play - sometimes that’s just by
getting out of the way, simplifying the landscape, removing
the bureaucratic barriers that prevent professionals from
doing what works.
But government also has an active role to play. We need
to help agencies join up more effectively, spreading good
ideas like the Case Management system in Charnwood,
Leicestershire, which allows agencies to pool information
on anti-social behaviour incidents and victims, and
manage cases collectively online. This gives them a much
more accurate local picture and allows agencies to quickly
identify vulnerable victims.
Or by encouraging the police and partners to work
together to identify the victims at greatest risk, and
prioritise action accordingly – as in Blackpool, where
agencies recently found an elderly couple who after
suffering noise, drunken behaviour and damage to their
property, had reached such a level of despair that they felt
that they had nothing left to live for. The same day, social
care was mobilised to support the family and the police
and local authority took immediate enforcement action
against the perpetrators.
Or the idea in Birmingham of contracting the local Victim
Support Service to support all victims of anti-social
behaviour, as well as victims of crime, challenging the
perception that anti-social behaviour is somehow less
important or less harmful.
Or rolling out good ideas like using the non-emergency
number 101 for anti-social behaviour calls, giving
residents a single point of contact and cutting through the
confusion. We will look for a cost-effective way to establish
101 as a single non-emergency number so it is easier to
report crime and anti-social behaviour.
These are the sorts of schemes that we want to see more
of and promote; generated from the bottom up, not
imposed from the top down.
But crucially, we also want communities to come up with
their own ideas of what they are going to do.
It’s not just the police, it’s not just social landlords, or
councils - it’s the whole of society that needs to come
together and work together to tackle anti-social behaviour.
Because fundamentally this is a local problem, and the
answers to it can only come from local people who are
close enough to understand the root causes.
They know what the problems are, so instead of coming
from some policy wonk in Whitehall, the solutions need to
come from within our communities themselves.
Communities like Bassetlaw, where volunteers in high-
visibility jackets provide a visible focal point for joint work
between agencies and the community to reduce anti-
Or communities like Thurrock, where Police Community
Support Officers and the local authority have worked with
the community to organise ‘walkaround’ days. These have
got agencies out into the heart of their local communities
to listen to what concerns residents and affects their
quality of life; do something positive about it; then
feedback what’s been done. Nearly 13 tons of rubbish
have been removed and 71 sites of graffiti have been
cleared so far.
Or they could come from individuals, like the lady in
Exeter, who had her windows smashed and was
threatened after complaining about loud music and
drunkenness linked to a nearby pub. Based on the
evidence gathered by her and her community, a
successful review of the pub licence was carried out and
the pub lease is now up for sale.
Or individuals like Joan Parrott, who is here today. For
four years Joan and her family endured anti-social
behaviour, including her son’s car being torched, until one
day she decided to make a stand. She worked with the
police and housing associations to ensure problems in her
community were addressed. She knocked on doors and
encouraged her neighbours to come forward and report
anti-social behaviour. And she managed community safety
events attended by hundreds of people. Now her fellow
residents come to Joan for advice: people in her
community have learned from her and no longer tolerate
We will back those who step in when it is right to do so
and we will support people so that they are willing and
able to reclaim their communities, just as Joan did.
We don’t pretend we have got all of the solutions on day
one. But I want to hear about more of the sorts of ideas I
have just outlined. I want to tell communities up and down
the land about the good work that is happening elsewhere
and say to them: you can do it too.
Because we will only beat anti-social behaviour if we
remember this: we are all in this together.
We need to give communities the power to bring about
their own change; to build the town, the village, the city –
the community – that you want.
We’ll help you to get involved; we’ll remove the barriers
stopping you playing your part.
We will tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour – the
family breakdown, the lack of opportunity and the booze
We will give the authorities the right toolkit to get their jobs
And we’ll put power into your hands. You will be free to
hold your police and your council to account.
Anti-social behaviour still blights lives, wrecks
communities and provides a pathway to criminality.
It might sometimes feel like an unwinnable battle but it’s
There is nothing inevitable about crime and there is
nothing inevitable about anti-social behaviour.
By coming together – and only by coming together – we
can win this battle.