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 552.

    Citizens arrest training? When the professionals can't seem to manage it unless they're mob handed, wearing anti stab vests and equipped with batons, pepper spray and tazers?

    Not exactly the sort of image likely to encourage folks to have a go is it?

  • 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 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!

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    10yrs ago 3 yobs attacked a young salesman in a garage at Xmas. I was 50 . He was being kicked in , they broke his nose (I think I bust one of theirs...felt good too at the time when I did it). Yobs ran off, Police arrived and said I shouldn't have got involved because I was too old, garage owner wanted to claim damages off me because in the scuffle knocked a display over and broke the Xmas tree.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    How wet people are these days. I have a strong sense of justice and would wade in - and have done so. Hopeless if you're afraid, though; like animals, they scent fear. If you just see red and go in with conviction - it works.


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