Anti-social behaviour: Two-thirds would 'walk on by'


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Two-thirds of the public would walk on by if they saw a group of teenagers drinking and verbally abusing passers-by in the street, a survey suggests.

Only 6% of the 1,784 people in England, Wales and Scotland surveyed by YouGov said they would definitely intervene. A further 21% said they probably would.

The think tank Policy Exchange paid for the survey and called for "citizen police academies" to be set up.

But the report's author warned people not to put themselves in danger.

Policy Exchange said citizen police academies could offer lessons in making citizens' arrests.

The survey found that, among those questioned, people in Scotland were the most likely to step in, while those in London were the least likely.

Start Quote

Citizen police academies are one way of helping the public feel more confident about their role in preventing criminal activity”

End Quote Edward Boyd, Policy Exchange

It also suggested that more than a third of adults - 36% - would be interested in attending free classes with police officers and volunteers to learn about combating anti-social behaviour and how to avoid danger when walking home alone.

A freedom of information request made by Policy Exchange for its survey and report also revealed that the number of citizens' arrests in London's Met Police area almost halved over two years, from 3,755 in 2009/2010 to 1,816 in 2011/2012.

'Have-a-go heroes'

"It's quite understandable that most people feel reluctant to be a have-a-go hero and it is important that they have the confidence to intervene and know when it is appropriate," report author Edward Boyd said.

"Citizen police academies are one way of helping the public feel more confident about their role in preventing criminal activity."

Mr Boyd told BBC Radio Five Live: "There are lots of reasons why police need to be careful."

He said the citizen police academies would equip people for "once in a blue moon" moments: "If on your way to work you see two kids potentially bullying another kid on a bus [it would] just give them the knowledge to know 'What should I do to play my part to defuse the situation before it gets out of hand?'"

The survey suggested there was public support for other organisations, including private businesses, taking on some of the police's administrative responsibilities to free up the time of officers.

Three-quarters of those surveyed said they would support other organisations taking on IT support and administration duties, while 56% would support them answering calls from the public.

The report also calls for neighbourhood police officers to be replaced by local crime prevention officers who, in monthly meetings with police commanders, would be "held to account personally for crime levels in their area".

Marcus Hacker, who runs a community group in Lincoln which tackles anti-social behaviour, told BBC Radio Five Live: "A lot of young people today, especially when they are in groups, they egg each other on.

"They have different issues that they may be confronting - and directly confronting a group of youths, especially if they are involved in doing something wrong, could well lead to an escalation and potential danger."

In August, the RSA charity - which aims to solve "social challenges" - also called for the public to be given lessons by officers and volunteers in how to defuse conflict.

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


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  • rate this

    Comment number 364.


    Re; youths and drink alcohol


    It is not the consumption of alcohol that is the issue, it is the amount dunk and the attitude surroulding alcohol of our teens. After all if you consider that in many nations teens are allowed to drink, and in those countries there is almost correlation between violence, teens and alcohol, I would consider drugs to be far more of a threat

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    // steve
    Where is the police presence on the streets?
    -You better ask the Tory Government they are the ones who have cut police numbers and budgets by 20%//

    Though in fairness, when you Labour were in, the police weren't particularly visible, either. Quite the opposite, in fact.

    Go on, blame Thatcher, you know you want to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Thats what the police are for. I'll fight when I have to, no sense in looking for trouble.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Time the police federation said, "We don't have the resources to harass motorists and social network users as we are too busy with the thugs on the street"

    Meantime disband a few of Camerons focus groups and train them instead - he clearly has no other use for them.

    What does my new PCC think, I wonder?

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    To claim that the police don't respond because of insufficient resources to answer all calls misses the point.

    IF the law came down like an Apocalypse from hell on muggers, burglars, disorderly youths (and their parents) then there wouldn't be as many calls to answer. A line needs to be drawn in the sand. Step over it at your peril.

    Of course that will never happen. We are too soft.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    335. PhamNuwen - only going off what's happening near me (no london isn't capital of world)

    Here's a UK stat for you In 2011 -12, 23% of the white group convicted for offences were sentenced to immediate custody, to that of 56% foreign nationals. so yes please send them back to where they came from

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    @ Kelly - your comment should read.

    State Behaviour Took out Anti-Social Republican Finucane.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    It's the PC world we are in, if you approach some oif the "yobs" you have to fear they play some form of racist type of card. There were some yobs harassing an elderly woman couple of months ago in London and I went to intervene, almost immediately there were about another dozen or so drawn to it and it was on the verge of getting out of hand when a couple of coppers appeared and the yobs went

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    @349 'Katz_in_Bedford'
    Thank you. for reiterating common sense. :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Things like this make my blood boil. During the London riot, I was tempted to tell them where to go. But let's face it, either I get my face kicked in & they run away (I get into hospital) or I kick their faces in & the police comes (I get in jail).
    Unlike them, I have a job & a family to feed. Some say, oh, the society let them down; I'd say, no, it let people like me down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    Anti-Social Behaviour:

    Pat Finucane murder: 'Shocking state collusion', says PM

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    Just been to the local shops. There are three police officers standing watching the traffic go by. There are three or four more down a side road with a police car. None of them is actually doing anything. None of them did anything all the time I was out there.

    "Sorry, we haven't any officers available to deal with your crime report." Unspoken bit: "They're watching the traffic go by...."

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    Joyanblu has hit the nail on the head. That is exactly the problem! Most people probably don't want to get involved when they see such things because fear that if they do, they'll probably be the ones that end up in trouble!

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    310. mostadome
    “It is no good phoning the police they are useless.”

    Agreed unless of course you mention ‘gun’ in which case expect helicopters and road blocks. A toy gun will do.

    “All this gang culture comes from abroard , we never had it so bad here years ago when England WAS England.”

    Before my time but didn't teddy boys get into a lot of gang and knife fights?

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    I was attacked in the street this summer at 8 am on a working morning in London by a young woman who was either drunk or high.Men walking on the street crossed over to avoid us & when I defended myself the attacker started shouting that this was because she was black & I was white. I was worried I'd be arrested for defending myself if I reported it, no witnesses & I'm a white middle aged woman

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Reintroducing the driver/conductor 2-man crew on buses would have the added advantage of keeping traffic moving too.
    A win-win move :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    Many of the youths in question do not see police, parents or any adult as authority figures. Nor are they afraid of them. They have very little in their lives to make them fear the consequences of their actions. This makes them very dangerous individuals who cannot be brought into line with a clip round the ear.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    I think we need to look at the root causes of trouble;

    poor parenting
    poor education
    poor job prospects for young adults
    poorly policed licensing laws enabling youths to drink alcohol
    poorly resourced police force
    poorly funded extra curricular provision
    poor sets of basic morals, values and aspirations.

    Do you think The Bullingdon Club set is helping or is part of the problem?

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    330.Gael Bage
    'Instead of controlling anti social behaviour we should be preventing it. Government create the conditions for more antisocial behaviour - poverty and anti social behaviour are linked'

    Prevent it yes but being poor itself does not create anti social behaviour. Plenty of less well off people go about their lives without abusing and diss'ing others. It's about respect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Being a teacher by trade, I have the confidence to intervene if something dangerous is going on, e.g. 2 nights ago a couple of 20-year-olds riding unlit bikes fast around a supermarket carpark who got told about the error of their ways. I wouldn't trouble over youths merely drinking & trading insults, though. My main weapon is my voice: makes a drill sergeant seem quiet!


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