UK

Anti-social behaviour: 'I bricked up my own window'

  • 23 September 2010
  • From the section UK

The police watchdog for England and Wales has warned that forces risk making a "very significant mistake" if they cut work on anti-social behaviour.

In a critical report, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor said some forces responded too slowly to calls for help from vulnerable people.

Three people who have suffered anti-social behaviour told their stories to the BBC.

Kim Langley: 'I bricked up my own window'

Kim Langley lives in Fareham in Hampshire. She says she was forced to brick up one of her own windows because of the level of vandalism her home was enduring.

She says that four years of anti-social behaviour has left her with other broken windows, a damaged roof, destroyed fencing, gates stolen - and a garden she is afraid to use.

At the heart of the problem has been one simple problem: gangs hanging around right next to her home.

Mrs Langley's house is on a busy main road - and the footbridge over the carriageways is also next to the property.

Local gangs congregate on that footbridge - and over four years turned Mrs Langley's home into a target for their vandalism.

"We've had fencing kicked in, windows broken, fires lit outside our house, eggs thrown at us and into the garden. Beer bottles, rubbish. It's just been one thing after another," she says.

"I hate it where I live. There are fights on the bridge. The kids use it for BMX stunts. A motorcycle drove up the steps once. I couldn't believe it."

As the problems worsened, she kept a detailed diary of all the incidents. Her logbook runs to scores of incidents - and it reads like the notes you would expect a police officer to keep.

Recently, the Highways Agency, which is responsible for the bridge, agreed to modify the structure to shield her home from attack.

But Mrs Langley says that work is too little too late - and she has lost all trust in local authorities to help people like her.

"It's the same old story. They come around. They are very sympathetic. They feel sorry for us. But then they say that there is nothing they can do.

"One police officer told me it was the 'night-time economy' that was the problem. Well I don't think the night-time economy starts with kids leaving school at 3.30 in the afternoon.

"Another said it was because of where we live. So does that mean I'm to blame for what we are experiencing?

"I have no faith at all in the police."

Susan: 'Police decided it was taking up too much time and resources'

Susan, 53, who lives in London asked that her full name be withheld.

She told the BBC she had been the victim of anti-social behaviour from her neighbour for more than a year. She has been threatened with violence and filmed by her neighbour.

She said: "This behaviour has now extended to other residents in the street. It was dealt with successfully by the local Safer Neighbourhood Team and the perpetrator was arrested.

"However this team was then removed from the case and not allowed to deal with any new incidents that occurred because the police sergeant decided that it was taking up too much time and resources. We were instructed to contact the central number for the Met or call 999.

"The anti-social behaviour has continued. This person persistently breaks his bail conditions but the police won't arrest him, even when I was threatened with a hammer.

"On that occasion the Pc dismissed it with 'The man's an imbecile'. That officer then made a false statement in his report saying that I was 'happy' with the action taken even though I had complained about it.

"Most recently we were told that they would not be contacting witnesses to a further breach of bail conditions. They have dropped the incident.

"One officer said to me 'I'll be glad when this is over so that I can get back to some real police work'.

"It might not be 'real' enough for them but it sure as hell is real enough to the people who have their lives made a daily misery as a result of anti-social behaviour."

Arthur Tunley: 'Pester the police and they will respond'

Mr Tunley is a primary school caretaker in Sudbury, Suffolk, and lives in a bungalow in the grounds.

He spent four years battling against a gang of teenage vandals, some of whom had passed through the classrooms as little boys.

He told the BBC that he had suffered 20 broken windows and had to repair his own front door at least five times.

"It got really, really bad about four years ago," said Mr Tunley. "For ages the police didn't do anything but I kept calling and calling."

Mr Tunley says that he was deeply frustrated when he tried to get the police to bring charges against teenagers he could name.

In some cases he caught sight of the culprits as they ran off after breaking a window. But officers said the courts would not convict unless he could prove which boy threw the stone.

However, the caretaker did not give up. He changed tack and began reporting every single act of anti-social behaviour to the police - no matter how small. Non-urgent incidents were also reported to the local council - and eventually he built a critical mass of complaints.

"What I found was that when I kept calling - they eventually took it seriously. You have to keep reporting the incidents until they are so peed off with you that they have to act."

Three local teenagers were identified as ringleaders and subjected to Acceptable Behaviour Contracts. These orders effectively meant the trio would end up on an Anti-Social Behaviour Order - or in court - if they approached Mr Tunley or his home.

"Since then, I've had nine months without any real trouble," said Mr Tunley. "But the problem is much deeper than something the police can deal with alone.

"I remember hearing one story about some of these lads being out in heavy rain.

"They were hanging around by the bus shelter and a Police Community Support Officer asked them why they weren't inside.

"They said their parents would not have them in the house. So they were stood outside getting wet, with no other place to go.

"We need the police to do their bit - but if the parents don't care, what can you do?"

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