Police community action to be made easier

New laws will help empower communities.

New powers aimed at tackling anti-social behaviour are set to support and empower communities, target troublemakers and contribute towards devising long-term solutions.

The so called ‘Community Trigger’ is a key component of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime & Policing Act 2014 that will see police and partners – including councils and housing groups – pulling closer together to combat persistent problems. Under the new legislation, which comes into force on 20th October, there are three different scenarios which will act as a catalyst for authorities to collectively review their response.

These are:
– Three separate incidents reported relating to the same problem in the past six months to the council, police or landlord;
– One incident or crime motivated by hate (due to race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity) reported in the last six months and no action has been taken.
– At least five people have made reports about the same problem in the past six months to the council, police or landlord and no action has been taken.

The trigger can be activated by a member of the public, a community or a business, including a third party concerned for someone else. The Act also introduces a new ‘Community Remedy’ aspect that allows victims of low level crime or ASB to select an out-of-court sanction they would be most happy to see offenders handed.

West Midlands Police’s ASB lead, Superintendent Angie Whitaker, said: “We don’t underestimate the stress and worry ASB can cause so it’s important we nip issues in the bud and take action. The new law is all about police and partners working together to help people whose lives are being adversely affected by anti-social behaviour – and give them a direct say in what course of action should be taken against perpetrators.

“It also gives police new powers to react swiftly should any issues develop that need a rapid response, such as imposing spontaneous dispersal orders to keep troublemakers away from a specified area.”

To deal with stubborn offenders – or ones who refuse to accept a Community Remedy – the act introduces new powers like civil injunctions and Criminal Behaviour Orders (replacing ASBOs and CRASBOs respectively).

Both can be handed to anyone causing “harassment, alarm or distress” – everything from begging and drunkenness, to nuisance neighbours or irresponsible dog ownership – and come with conditions designed to address bad behaviour. Civil injunctions can also be used when victims are experiencing nuisance or annoyance in their homes. And police powers to remove troublemakers from an area have been simplified as dispersal orders will be able to be applied for instantly without the need to designate a ‘dispersal zone’ in advance.

Supt Whitaker added: “Injunctions not only ban people from acting in a certain way but may also come with a requirement to proactively address their behaviour. That could mean attending mediation sessions, anger management, alcohol awareness classes or dog training sessions run by animal welfare charities. The enhanced dispersal order powers will help provide rapid short-term respite to a community – banning people from an area for up to 48 hours – whilst police and partners identify longer-term solutions.”

Public consultation on the Community Remedy started earlier this month through the West Midlands Office for Policing and Crime.