A tough new action plan to rid communities of Anti-Social Behaviour and ensure offenders are punished swiftly is to get underway across the Durham Constabulary area.
Durham is one of 16 new ‘trailblazer’ areas to receive funding from the Home Office to pilot urgent action to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) and step-up the punishment of those caught committing it.
It is part of a new Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan developed to increase the number of officers and resources dedicated to tackling ASB in recognition of the misery it causes communities.
The plan includes the roll out of a new Immediate Justice service where perpetrators of ASB will be made to repair the damage they inflict on victims and communities within 48 hours of being handed an out of court disposal by the Police.
Perpetrators will be made to clean up graffiti, pick litter and wash police cars while wearing jumpsuits or high-vis vests while being supervised under the plans.
Additionally, funding will be provided to PCCs in the pilot to work with councils and others to deliver ‘hotspot’ policing and enforcement.
The Plan includes pledges to change laws and systems to take a zero-tolerance approach to ASB and crack down on illegal drugs – including banning nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, to put an end to intimidating groups of young people littering local parks with empty cannisters.
Commissioner Allen has prioritised ASB in her Police and Crime Plan and has funded an array of projects and resources to increase support for victims and ensure offenders get the justice they deserve.
As the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ (APCC) Joint Lead for Addictions and Substance Misuse, she has led calls for the Government to ban nitrous oxide and campaigned hard for ASB to taken more seriously.
Welcoming the latest announcement, Commissioner Allen said: “I am delighted Durham has been included in the 16 pilot areas and will receive significant extra funding to deliver this two-year crackdown to target ASB on every front.
“However, while this funding, welcome though it is, will indeed help to put a more visible police presence on the streets, it is only a two-year pilot. We need long-term investment for long-term solutions. It’s interesting that ten of the areas in this pilot have not seen the number of police officers return to 2010 levels. We need a fundamental change to the funding formula to make it a level playing field.
“This funding is confirmation that what we are already doing across the force area is working well. Thanks to the determination of my office and our partners, ASB has reduced by 16.4 per cent over the last quarter and this lift will help us to deliver even better results for our communities.
“Work will start almost immediately. There will be an impetus for offenders to be apprehended from the outset so that hardworking people can see justice taking place in their communities instantly. But we also have an opportunity to expand our behaviour change work to prevent more of these crimes happening in the first place.
“I am particularly pleased that nitrous oxide is to be banned – an issue I’ve fought long and hard for on behalf of our communities here in Durham and as part of my national portfolio responsibilities. Drug taking, fly tipping, noise problems and neighbourhood disputes all have a hugely detrimental impact on quality of life and wellbeing. The public rightly expects them to be dealt with quickly and strongly and this funding, alongside tougher powers and legislation, will make that job much easier. It will also help restore confidence, trust and pride in the Police and the wider justice system.”
As part of the new Action Plan, the upper limits of on-the-spot fines to £1,000 for fly tipping and £500 for litter and graffiti will be increased.
It will also make available one million extra hours of youth support in anti-social behaviour hotspots and invest to in early intervention work with at risk young people via one- to-one support.
Following Baroness Newlove’s report into ASB in her role as Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Commissioner Allen enshrined many of its recommendations and themes in her Police and Crime Plan.
She was the first PCC to appoint a dedicated ASB Victims’ Champion. After just a year, the post is already strengthening the voice of victims of ASB in the criminal justice system and ensuring agencies work more closely together to solve long-standing problems.
The Commissioner has also boosted the Community Trigger scheme, making it easier for victims to seek redress when problems remain unresolved and given more weight to the victim’s experience of harm during the resolution process.
She has also invested £100k alongside £50k from County Durham Community Foundation between 22 charities and community organisations to prevent people from being drawn into crime and ASB and empower communities to take a proactive role in the safety of their areas.
College bars at Durham University have been praised by PCC for meeting strict standards of safety as part of a national accreditation scheme.
Four outstanding Community Peer Mentor volunteers have been invited to Royal celebration events to mark King Charles III’s Coronation.
PCC has praised the swift roll-out of a free security scheme helping former victims of crime and their neighbours to feel safer in their homes.