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 404.

    I only intervene if someone is going to get hurt/someone else has intervened and look like they need back up. The problem is, if you take on a group of 15-35 year olds (yes, they are not just "youths") you have NO idea what they are capable of. The question of "risk my life to try to get these idiots to behave OR ignore and walk on by" It's a shame it's that way but it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    My grandfather died before I was born but I heard a story of him which is relevant. While in a small cafe in Harlow he saw a mother with her Down Syndrome son come in to order something. Then came a group of louts and slapped the Down's boy around the face. My grandfather gave the lout such a punch it lifted his legs in the air. The police came and congratulated my grandfather, this being 1968.

  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    that's because a disportionate no. of young black and Muslim men committ crimes. Don't blame society as most other ethnic minortities namely young Hindi, Sikh and Chinese men behave well, get an education and get on with it. It's time black and Muslim men behaving badly did the same; they had access to the same opportunities as the rest of us ordinary folk.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    383 DW "Time for an injection of reality" Whose reality?

    395. BadlyPackedKebab; by finally addressing the social issues ignored by successive governments - issues of education, class division, valuing people differently, elitism, endless commodification rammed up the penniless noses of the unemployed - criminalised for minor offences, and realigning the prison system, which clearly does not work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    so i assume anyone who does intervene is fully insured by the government ? if they get stabbed and have to take months off work - the government will pay their mortgage etc ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    The police are a sham!!! Have been so degraded by Government cutbacks its a joke. My late father was a policeman and he would be turning in his grave to see the state of the service now. But guess what your council tax goes up every year but the services we get are 10 times worse!!!

    I have phoned the police a few times over the last few years and they were not interested in any crimes reported.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    Where is the police presence on the streets?

    Going the same way as the Dodo. I think we are the police now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    I did intervene when my local shop and its customers was targeted by six or seven louts (I mistakenly thought it was only one at the time). For my troubles I got the thanks of the shopkeeper and his staff. The police, for their part, let the louts go and arrested me. Then followed an assault in the back of a police van and a few hours in the cells. I now know better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    As my earlier suggestion was not well received, how about we put them in prison for five years to allow them time to consider if they wish to join the human race or would rather continue with the behaviour which landed them in prison in the first place. If they choose the latter, they can have a further ten years to give it some more thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    'Fewer police to deal with far less crime and disorder should be the goal, not the other way around'

    Ideally yes but how do you get to that ? Deterrents need to be just that and at the moment they clearly don't work. It shouldn't be the case in this country where a minority is allowed to make the lives of others a misery with no fear of repercussion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    /. UnbelievableTekkers
    judging by some of the comments on yesterdays HYS the man with the funny accent wouldn't stand a chance in front of a jury no matter what the evidence said.//

    Yes, there were some racists peddling the racist line that 'we' owe foreigners something, that, 'we' don't exist as an ethnic group, that foreigners are harder working than 'us' ...fortunately they're the minority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    I can understand this when the police themselves and the operators on the emergency 999 number can ignore very similar things or more serious matters. I refer to the woman and daughter who killed themselves after ages of abuse/harassment from local yobs and the failure of 999 and the police to actually do what we pay them for. Contrast the reaction of the police to that and the hoax call suicide.

  • Comment number 392.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    There seems to be a vast variance in comment here.

    Respect is earned - starting in school. Give teachers protection and power, give parents training and support and when all this fails give the kids what for.
    What was wrong with the law "back in the day"? Too harsh? Don't think so.

    Only had corporal punishment once - didn't have it again.

    Intervention depends on severity and commonsense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    Never go out and shout at kids - their new scheme (not that new) is - if you go out and shout at them, they get their mates to give them a beating then telll the police you done it and all their friends back them up.
    Not only do they get you in trouble, they also get a nice claim outta it.

  • Comment number 389.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    338. TuRbO-DD "Britain's gone Walter Softy, what happened to a good hiding to put them off doing it?" Oh I see. You advocate state violence to stop resentful, violent behaviour. Control by fear works does it? What sort of a world do you think we should all live in - one where we are all vigilantes? Fewer police to deal with far less crime and disorder should be the goal, not the other way around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    DW - I happen to read the Guardian but I'd still like to round up these yobs and thrash their backsides - and anywhere else painful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    I hope I'm not alone though, in finding that the vast majority of kids and young people are fine, more than fine, actually.

    Yes, there is criminality, and yes, the police are often worse than useless.

    But the idea that all kids are feral yobs is simply not true.

  • Comment number 385.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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