Anti-social behaviour training 'could defuse conflict'

Youths on a housing estate The training would include how to "read" situations and resolve conflicts

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Members of the public should be given lessons in how to tackle anti-social behaviour, a charity has suggested.

The RSA, which aims to solve "social challenges", says police officers or volunteers could provide training, including methods to defuse conflict.

Its report says the need to get people involved has become more urgent because of police cuts in England and Wales.

But the Police Federation said officers did not have the resources to offer such training because of the cuts.

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) says the English riots of a year ago "laid bare both the risks and strengths of self-organised citizen defence".

And it says there is a growing interest in the idea of training people to deal with low-level crime and aggressive behaviour on the streets.

Author Ben Rogers said that with "the real prospect of traditional police patrolling being scaled back" it was time to "focus seriously on agreeing the core skills that active citizens need".

The report concludes that, "while public concern for low-level disorder remains high, citizens have little or no confidence to intervene".

And it said introducing the training alongside other measures "aimed at building long-term civic capacity" would "go some way towards healing our anxious communities".

Conflict resolution

The RSA said the training should include:

  • Self-protection and restraint - what physical steps to take to minimise the risk to oneself
  • How to "read" a situation - when to walk on by, when it's safe to intervene or when to call the police
  • Conflict resolution and mediation - how to defuse an argument, forge an agreement and, where appropriate, give an apology

It said training should also be given to "front-line" public servants including public transport workers, traffic wardens and teachers.

Shopkeepers, publicans and postal workers could also benefit from the training, the RSA said.

Although the report recommends that police officers provide the training, it says volunteers could be trained to pass on their knowledge to others.

The National Childbirth Trust - whose classes are run by parents rather than midwives - could work as a model for the scheme, the charity added.

'Society's problems'

Paul McKeever from the Police Federation, who is also a member of the RSA, told the Today programme that while the report contained positive ideas, the police did not have the resources to "take this additional burden on".

He added: "What we're dealing with here is perhaps the symptoms of some much more deep-rooted problems within society. You need to deal with those problems rather than just skimming the surface and dealing with some of the anti-social behaviour that presents itself out there on the streets."

The RSA's report mentions a charity called Dfuse, which trains people in conflict resolution. Its founder Jane Atkinson said its training teaches people to respond to situations, rather than immediately intervene.

"Response might be going round the corner and calling the police," she said. "It might be being a very good witness. It might be actually intervening yourself but only if you feel you can do something.

"The aim is to communicate, to defuse the situation. So what you never do is use the words which spring spontaneously to your lips."

In May, the government announced new plans to tackle anti-social behaviour in England and Wales, including orders to replace Asbos.

Proposals in the government's White Paper include cutting the number of different orders from 19 to six while it said a "community trigger" would force police, councils and agencies to act if five households made a complaint.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I wonder how many people moaning and groaning about our society actually do anything positive to change things. Volunteer work, assisting public services etc, or whether they just sit around furiously typing. Things dont get fixed by just moaning about how things are. Get up and do something positive instead of just winging and whining.

  • Comment number 38.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    If I were to intervene in a street dispute and attempt a citizens arrest I would expect to be either stabbed OR charged by the police with false imprisonment/assault.

    I would like to see the law changed to prioritise the rights of the victims & Innocent bystanders above the rights of the criminals. I would also like to see more genuine Police Officers and fewer useless PCSOs on our streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    When I grew up in the 1950s if you caused a disturbance in the street most adults would either give you a good shake or a clip around the ear. That was how disapproval and discipline was enacted, by all adults. Now if you do that you get hauled before the courts. The naughty child gets compensation and you get a criminal record. End result - we have a society with no real discipline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    What we need is some proper discispline for children from a young age from parents schools and society as a whole.
    Lack of discipline is the root cause of this anti-social resulting a total lack of respect for anyhting and anyone.


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