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In their own words

Full speech: May announces measures to tackle alcohol-related crime

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

anti-social behaviour.

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.

Previous Approach

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.

New approach

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.

It wasn’t.

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.

Government’s Role

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

do so.

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

the casualties.

So we will overhaul the Licensing Act to ensure that local

people have greater control over pubs, clubs and other

licensed premises.

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-

fuelled disorder.

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-

social behaviour.

But they have not always taken anti-social behaviour

seriously enough.

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 public.

The police should focus on what local people want, not on

what politicians and civil servants in Westminster think

they want.

So we will replace bureaucratic accountability with

democratic accountability.

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

have consequences.

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

ever level.

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.

Partners’ Role

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.

Communities’ Role

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-

social behaviour.

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

anti-social behaviour.

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.


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