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Newcastle - a proud Lib Dem record of action on Anti-Social Behaviour

September 18, 2012 6:26 PM
By Cllr Anita Lower, Newcastle City Council and Lib Dem member, LGA Safer Communities Board in Fighting Crime - Locally by the Lib Dem LGA group

Cllr Anita Lower

Cllr Anita Lower

Under the Liberal Democrats, we made sure that Newcastle City Under the Liberal Democrats, we made sure that Newcastle City Council took tackling Anti Social Behaviour seriously, adopting a 'Victim Approach To Anti-Social Behaviour'.

The background to adopting this approach was the Pilkington family, an infamous case which involved a woman tragically killing herself and her daughter, as a result of the family being subject to persistent incidents of hate crime and ASB.

This case highlighted a need to extend the Safe Newcastle Partnership response to ASB by ensuring:

  • The victim is heard and their vulnerability is assessed
  • Reported incidents are cross referenced and shared
  • In cases of high & complex victim vulnerability, a multi-agency action plan focussing on the safety of the victim, as well as action to tackle the perpetrator, is agreed and carried out.

Newcastle City Council began the development of a multi-agency database designed to ensure that reported Anti-Social Behaviour was shared.

'Your Homes Newcastle', which manages the council's housing stock, extended its Housing Anti-Social Behaviour & Enforcement Team service by:

  • Offering Victim Support to victims of ASB in its tenancies and to victims in the private sector where the perpetrator was a tenant
  • Introduced Minimum Standards including targets for response to complaint times
  • Assessing victim vulnerability.

'Safe Newcastle' the Crime Reduction Partnership for the City was effectively chaired by the Liberal Democrats for seven years and during that time Safer Newcastle provided funds for a range of activity to support effective action to tackle Anti Social Behaviour (ASB). This included: the Student Community Safety Initiative, an ASB Environmental Health Officer, Selective Licensing areas, redeployable CCTV cameras, and legal support for ASB enforcement action.

The partnership recognised the need to ensure provision of similar service standards, comparable to those for 'Your Homes Newcastle' tenants, to residents who are owner occupiers or who live in the private rented sector.

The 'Victim Approach to Anti Social Behaviour' is a multi-agency commitment to deal with ASB no matter what the tenure of the property is.

Agencies such as the Police, Registered Social Landlords, Regulatory Services, Victim Support & Safe Newcastle work together to protect and support victims of ASB and these arrangements are supported by:

  • The appointment of a Victim Support Worker for victims of ASB in the private sector. The worker spends half the week located within Regulatory Services and Public Protection Division taking referrals from the police, the specialist ASB Environmental Health Officer, the Noise Team etc.
  • The appointment of a Voids Property Officers to manage and enforce actions around empty properties which become magnets for ASB.
  • Training to help staff assess how best to help victims.
  • The commissioning of mediation services and training to deal with disputes between neighbours at an early stage to try and deal with issues satisfactorily before they escalate.
  • The agreement of partners to support fortnightly meetings to task and coordinate Action Plans for the cases of the most complex and vulnerable victims.
  • The appointment of a Coordinator to ensure a timely exchange of information and to assist in developing the system.

Good practice case studies include:

1. Supporting the victim and getting results

Jane and her partner Phil suffered from noise nuisance, harassment and threats from their downstairs neighbours since they moved into their privately rented flat. The neighbours made threats, caused noise nuisance through loud music and shouting and act in an intimidating manner towards Jane and Phil. Jane is a survivor of domestic abuse from a previous relationship. Jane was pregnant and the stress and lack of sleep has impacted on her health.

Newcastle City Council notified the ASB Victim Worker that they were dealing with a vulnerable victim and support was put in place. The support was provided alongside enforcement action taken by Newcastle City Council. Colleagues from the Public Health, Housing Selective Licensing team and Noise Team worked together Work continued with the landlord and the offending tenant to try and address the tenant's behaviour and in turn prevent any actions to end the tenancy. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful. Interim Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were obtained against the tenant and her partner, and when this also failed to curb the behaviour the Selective Licensing team assisted the landlord to collate the evidence to enable possession of the property through the county court.

The ASB Victim Worker continued to visit the complainants and provided ongoing emotional support, as well as supporting them at court. The Interim Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were breached by both the tenant and her guest within a week of them being issued; this resulted in the guest being sent to jail for 12 weeks, and the tenant received hefty fines. The landlord also secured possession of the property, and the tenant was evicted.

Through a partnership approach this case action was taken swiftly, the victim was supported and her quality of life improved significantly.

2. Intervention to support young people

A young person, living with her mum, also lived with two sisters, both involved with low level anti social activity and her two brothers, also teenagers, who were both involved in the criminal justice system. The family rent a property from the council.

She was referred to the project by 'Your Homes Newcastle' Family Intervention Project; they were concerned with the amount of crime and anti social behaviour associated with the household. She appeared to be following in the footsteps of her siblings/peers, and the family was on the brink of being evicted from the property.

She became involved with a positive peer group, undertaking an award program, developing confidence and self esteem, and achievement. She participated in one to one sessions exploring consequences of actions, respect for herself, others, and peer pressure. Her involvement in a drama and video project exploring and dramatising issues current to young people (knife crime, peer pressure, bullying.)

She moved on to attend the established girls group, and explored issues including personal safety and boundaries, and developed her confidence sufficiently to support the other young females in the group and helped staff to deliver elements of the sessions and workshops to other young people. She is doing well at school, being successful in her school's 'dance best' auditions, she often calls into the project to catch up with staff and on occasions has helped out with small projects with other young people.

3. Support for mum

The project gave a range of support and interventions to the mother, including support with housing issues, positive parenting programs, developing strategies for boundary setting and dealing with negative behaviour within the family setting. 'Your Homes Newcastle' have lifted the eviction notice as mum has made progress in dealing with the disruption associated with the household, and she has enrolled on a further education course to enhance her chances of employment in the future.

Under the Lib Dems, Newcastle City Council also:

1. Cracked down on binge drinking

  • Newcastle were instrumental in introducing licensing for all door supervision staff, long before the national scheme was introduced.
  • We also used the 2004 Licensing Act to take the opportunity to introduce Special Policy Areas in 3 parts of the City, where the presumption was all applications for further licenses would be refused unless they offered something unique to the night-time economy.
  • This allowed the City to stop the growth in the number of High Volume Vertical Drinking Establishments and reduce pressure on the City Centre and Police.

2. Supported everybody living in student areas

  • The Liberal Democrat administration introduced a scheme called 'Operation OAK' operating in student areas.
  • The local councillors and the universities jointly funded extra policing to help prevent burglary, anti-social behaviour, and reduce community tensions.

3. Helped people get home safely at night

  • The council also joint funded with the Police 'taxi marshalling' at the city centre taxi ranks.
  • This involved a joint operation with police officers and enforcement teams operating a zero tolerance policy, as a result recording of low level crime rose but more serious crime decreased.

4. Helped deal with community tensions

  • We also introduced a rapid response approach to incidents, this was tested when there was a potential flashpoint incident when, tragically, a police car knocked down and killed a 16 year old girl.
  • By using the community links and contacts already established officers were able to respond quickly to community concerns and provide much needed information to diffuse the situation.