by Lorraine Gillies, SCSN Chief Officer

The Scottish Community Safety Network has a special interest in anti-social behaviour.

Just before lockdown in 2020, we hosted a fishbowl discussion on antisocial behaviour as part of the Firestarter Festival. The discussion centred on how society and policy could view antisocial behaviour with a more compassionate, trauma-informed lens that accounts for and addresses the social determinants, underlying behaviours and still supports victims. We discussed what ‘pro-social’ behaviour might look like, and how to move the discourse towards one that celebrates strengths rather than shortcomings. You can find the report here – https://www.safercommunitiesscotland.org/event-report-lets-talk-about-asb/

We commissioned some research and we worked with @FearlessScotland (part of Crimestoppers Trust) to produce this fabulous campaign!

So, some things we know – (pre-Covid)

  • Levels of ASB have decreased over the past 10 years and the public have noticed this decline in their areas. 29% of adults in 2017/18 thought ASB was common in their area which is down from 46% in 2009/10. 
  • Nevertheless, those living in the most deprived areas, in socially rented housing and in large urban areas, as well as younger people, are more likely to perceive ASB issues in their area.
  • While it is an improving picture, there is a strong link between ASB and area deprivation, possibly arriving as a result of intensively neighboured housing and a lack of community facilities and social services.
  • Perceptions of ASB and who engages in it are also often inaccurate and influenced by stereotypes.
  • Court action for ASB has decreased over the last 10 years, reflecting a shift from treating ASB as an issue of law and order that requires sanctions to one of addressing perpetrator vulnerability to prevent ASB.

That led us to approach the Scottish Government with a plan – we wanted to take this discussion across scotland and really find out what people were saying and thinking about anti social behaviour.The Scottish Government agreed with us that we needed to know more and so we began a national disussion and spoke to organisations, individuals and grops across the country. Wrapping up soon, we will publish a report in due course.

Meantime, ASB remains in the news.

I was recently asked to give a quote to the Times for an article they were writing as a reponse to an FOI. The article said that “Police sent officers to fewer than four in ten reports of antisocial behaviour in Scotland over the past five years, according to new figures.

This is my response –

“Addressing anti-social behaviour (ASB) is a key aim of many community groups, agencies and statutory bodies across Scotland. It’s a perennial problem that affects rural and urban neighbourhoods and communities.. Recording varies across the country and data may not truly reflect situation. However, it’s clear that those living in disadvantaged communities are more adversely affected. Link to some research by us a few years back – https://www.safercommunitiesscotland.org/2020/11/12/media-release-new-research-on-anti-social-behaviour-published/

Definition of what are anti-social behaviours is not universally understood and acted on across Scotland. What someone sees is anti-social behaviour could be otherwise described as unwanted behaviour.   

 Legislation has been in place since 2004 and could use updating. 

 With tightening resources, I have sympathy with Police Scotland trying to direct these for best effect. ASB is not and should not be tackled by Police Scotland alone. SCSN supports Community Safety Partnerships across the country – who are taking a partnership approach to local issues. Other, preventative approaches such as youth work are incredibly helpful in tackling ASB and you are right to suggest that the role of communities is key – not as police but as support to people who may be be experiencing difficulties and act anti-socially because of a range of factors. 

 We know much in Scotland about trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and we know that hurt people hurt people. It’s in our interests to expand this understanding to anti-social behaviour.

In collaboration with colleagues at Scottish Government (SG), SCSN is exploring whether there might be another way to approach to ASB; one that focuses on reducing punitive enforcement, and increases early intervention, re-direction, positive opportunities, and highlights community support to help reduce ASB.”

You can read the article here – https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/police-attend-fewer-than-4-in-10-reports-of-antisocial-behaviour-jcvf52n75

I’d be interested to hear what you think?