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We have 14 acceptable behaviour agreements in the borough, three acceptable behaviour contracts and five active dispersal areas. We have a designated public places order, which applies to 150 streets. Amid the plethora of street furniture in Scarborough are distinctive lime-green signsI think I used the word funky when they were introduceddrawing attention to the areas involved. Contrary to popular opinion in the town, they are not areas where people are prohibited from drinking, but if the police ask someone to hand over the alcohol that they are
drinking, that person can be arrested and fined £500 if they refuse to do so. Those arrangements replace byelaws which had no powers behind them. If people chose to ignore them, there was nothing that the local authority could do.
Scarborough has a successful crime and disorder reduction partnership, known as the Safer Communities Partnership (North Yorkshire Moors and Coast). There have been many successes, for instance in regard to problem drinking. There are four planks to that strategy. The first plank is responsible retailing. We have the Best Bar None campaign, which gives pubs and off licences accreditation if they can meet the required standards by identifying people who are drunk and refusing to serve them, and being vigilant about the problem of under-age drinking. The second plank is responsible drinking. Attitudes to binge drinking need to be changed. We distribute Spikeys, special caps for bottles to prevent people from putting spirits or date-rape drugs into them. We are also examining the problem of domestic violence linked to irresponsible drinking. The third plank is enforcement and fixed-penalty notices, and the fourth relates to the urban environment.
Lighting is important in the urban environment. If people are to feel confident in our town centres, the lighting must be adequate. Conversely, one reason why we do not see too much antisocial behaviour in the villages is that there is no lighting. Young people do not congregate in the village centres because in winter it is pitch black, and no one can see what they are doing. We are also considering the location of takeaways and taxi ranks, where there can be flashpoints of antisocial behaviour as people congregate after leaving the pubs. We have a very good CCTV system in the town.
Led by the local authority, we have been giving thought to what it calls inter-generational activity. Elderly people, perhaps retuning home from a meal in a restaurant, are intimidated by young people in the streets at night. Although the young people may not be doing anything illegal or causing a specific problem, the fact that they are there, sometimes wearing hoodies, may make elderly people less than keen to rush across and hug them straight away. The local authority is organising another kids versus cronies bowling competition this year, following last years successful roll-out. I am only sorry that, not being in either group, I shall not be able to take part in it just yet.
Before I end my speech, I must refer to the problem of mini-motos. They are a real bane for many communities, but we must think carefully before we regulate, because many people use motorcycles responsibly for recreation purposes. Some use them for trial riding, for instance, while others take part in motocross. I suspect that if we try to clamp down on mini motos, the majority of law-abiding citizens will comply with the new legislation but the troublemakers will ignore itthat is similar to the situation in respect of guns. We must think carefully before we take action that might impinge on responsible motorcycle users.
Finally, let me refer to a case that came to my attention this week via my new text your MP service. A young lady contacted me and I rang her back right away. She has a problem in her street with people who have been subject to certain of the measures that we are discussing; they are no longer able to roam the streets but instead they go to particular houses, and that can be a real problem. The young lady who contacted me said that at the house next door to hers 20 people come and go at all times of the day and night and that there is noise; she has even had to install her own closed circuit television camera so that she can observe what goes on outside her home. She is not an old fogey; she is a 23-year-old with a young family.
I pay tribute to the work being done by Scarborough borough council, North Yorkshire police and the police authority under the chairmanship of county councillor Jane Kenyon. Unlike in Hartlepool, we have been ahead of the game, and the lesson to be learned is that the types of issues that we are discussing need to be addressed not top-down by edict from Government, but from the bottom up by local people, communities and councillors deciding what is the best tailor-made approach to the problems that they face in their area. I am pleased that the Minister referred to that in his opening remarks; he said that we cannot have off-the-peg solutions to such problems, but that they must be tailor-made for every community.
I am pleased about the progress that is being made in Scarborough. We are a good and safe place to come on holiday. Although there is still much to do in terms of addressing antisocial behaviour, under the inspired leadership of our Conservative-controlled borough and county councils we are moving in the right direction.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): It is a pleasure to take part in the debate, and I want to echo some of the comments of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill). As I represent Cleethorpes, a number of the issues he referred to are also of relevance to my constituency. On Friday and Saturday nights, lots of people congregate in Cleethorpes town centre and there is concern about the drinking culture there and its impact in terms of antisocial behaviour.
I am also pleased that the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Browne) has returned to the Chamber, because as I am one of the two Members present who served on the Committee on the Anti-social Behaviour Billas it was called before it was enactedI can tell him that his colleagues who served on that Committee came up with some pretty strange and wacky proposals. I certainly recall their negative comments on police community support officers, dispersal zones and many other measures in the Bill.
Annette Brooke: Will the hon. Lady confirm that in fact we discussed community support officerswhich is, I think, what they were called at the timein discussions on the proposed legislation that became the Police Reform Act 2002, not in those on what became the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003? Therefore, I do not think that there can be any recollections of the tone of discussions of CSOs other than as generally supportive.
Shona McIsaac: The hon. Lady should go away and read the back copies of reports on the Committee stages of the Bill I mentioned, because various derogatory comments were made about PCSOs. As I have said, there were also many other strange comments by Liberal Democrat Committee members; for instance, at one point when other Committee members were expressing concern about antisocial behaviour, a colleague of the hon. LadyI do not remember whether she was in attendance at the time, so I am unsure whether she recalls what was saiddeclared that there was no antisocial behaviour in his constituency. That gave us much cause for hilarity, just as the speech today of the hon. Member for Taunton gave my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) some cause for hilarity.
I know the ins and outs of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 fairly well, and I was very enthusiastic about the measures introduced because they addressed my residents concerns. Since I was first elected to this House in 1997, a lot of people have raised issues such as vandalism, graffiti, nuisance noise and groups congregating. Back in 1997, there was not the language to address those issues, but an increasing number of Members started raising them, which in part led to the 2003 Act.
There are two aspects to the 2003 Act: the behavioural aspectantisocial behaviour orders, parenting contracts, acceptable behaviour contractsand the environmental aspect, by which I mean abandoned cars, fly-tipping, graffiti and so on. Since that Act came into force, we have augmented the powers of local authorities and others through the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005. That has given local communities a lot of tools to deal with antisocial behaviour.
Although it is tempting to do so, I shall not go into detail about the causes of antisocial behaviour, a few of which the hon. Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) alluded to. I may not agree with some of his ideas, but I agree that we have to look at the causes. Many powers exist that enable us to address antisocial behaviour, but as other Members have said to me, enforcementthe use of those powers by local authorities, the police and otherscan be patchy around the country. That is my experience. My constituency is covered by two local authorities; unlike that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool, it does not have the luxury of being coterminous. North Lincolnshire and North East Lincolnshire councils introduce different measures at different times, even though the communities affected by those different measures live alongside each other. That creates confusion. Also, the councils and the police do not use their powers to their fullest extent, so the perception in Grimsby, Cleethorpes, Immingham, Barton and the surrounding villages in my area is that
the 2003 Act is not addressing their concerns. However, the problem is not the Act itself and what the Government have done, but the use of those powers.
Let me give a few examples. The former chief constable of Humberside once told me that he did not agree with the 2003 Act and some of the measures in it. Some councillors told me that they felt that it was an infringement of peoples liberties, so they did not want to use the powers available to them. The chairman of the police authority at that time had similar views. Police community support officersthey have been mentioned todayand community wardens are integral to addressing antisocial behaviour, but unfortunately, when the first round of bidding came in for police CSOs in my area, the then chief constable and the chairman of the police authority decided that they did not wish to bid. Most other forces put in bids for CSOs, but our area did not, and we were left with zero. Members can imagine how that looked. We had councils that were somewhat recalcitrant about using their powers, and a chief constable who did not want police CSOs.
One can therefore understand why some local residents are feeling let down by the Act, in spite of the fact that I was on the Committee and am an enthusiast for all the measures. Indeed, even before I was elected as a Member of Parliament, I had campaigned on the issues of community cohesion, respect, pride in ones neighbourhood and the need to address the antisocial behaviour of a minority who sometimes terrorise the law-abiding majority.
Recently, the Grimsby Telegraph, a local newspaper that covers the north-east Lincolnshire part of my constituency, launched a campaign called Enough!, which probably summarises the views of my constituents. They have had enough of the antisocial behaviour sometimes manifested in our communities. To be fair to the paper, it sees this campaign as an extension of the Governments respect campaign and it is designed to encourage community action. I have mentioned the councils and the police, but community action is as much a part of addressing antisocial behaviour as the other issues that have been mentioned today. The newspaper always includes a link to the Governments respect website in its coverage of the campaign.
To date, some 8,000 people have signed the petition and it was presented to Louise Casey of the antisocial behaviour unit last week. The paper is not trying to come up with solutions, but to highlight some of the problems that exist in the urban areas of Grimsby and Cleethorpes because of quirky decisions made in the past by, for example, the chief constable. The council has been slow to take up the issue of antisocial behaviour. North-East Lincolnshire council has had financial problems and was languishing at the bottom of the league table for performance and, unfortunately, that has had an impact on our community.
Things are getting better, I am glad to say. The council has tried to take action, although I do not think that it is taking enough action yet. For example, when I tabled a parliamentary question about how many incidences of fly-tipping there had been and how many fixed penalty notices and prosecutions there had
been in response, the answer was a big fat zero in terms of the latter. I do not know of any action being taken to combat noise nuisance, especially at night. As one can imagine, being a resort area we do get noise nuisance at night from, for example, parties with thumping music or cars that just park up outside houses with the music blaring out for a couple of hours. I do not recall any action being taken or fixed penalty notices being issued in such instances.
We are making progress, slowly, and that has to be good news. The new chief constable is keen to use the powers and he wants community support officers. My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and I will meet Chief Superintendent Kevin Sharp of our local division next week to talk about the newspapers campaign and what further measures can be taken. My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey), who is a former chairman of Humberside police authority, is going to see the chief constable tomorrow to raise some of the wider issues surrounding antisocial behaviour and community support officers.
With regard to CSOs, the Humberside police authority area is in an unusual position. We lost out on two rounds of bidding for CSOs, so the question is how we catch up with the rest of the country following the decision not to bid. The decision was unusual, perhaps even unique: I know of no other police force in Britain that decided that PCSOs were not needed. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to do something to rectify the problem.
As I said, my local newspaper has been running a campaign to highlight the regions antisocial behaviour. Will my hon. Friend say whether anything can be done to secure enhanced funding for what is a problem area? Our rate of crime per 1,000 of population is somewhat higher than the national average, and the unusual circumstances of north and north-east Lincolnshire justify additional support.
I want to raise a couple of other matters. First, what can be done to help local authorities to make full use of their powers? My hon. Friend may want to discuss that question with colleagues in other Departments, but one element of the problem has to do with education. For example, I have become aware through my correspondence with the local authority that some of the people there do not know what powers are available to them. What can he do to get the message through about the powers that local authorities have?
Secondly, I want restorative and community justice to be extended. I welcome the introduction of ASBOs, parenting orders and so on, but some of the people who are guilty of antisocial behaviour do not understand the consequences of their actions because there is no real system of restorative justice.
Often, the victims of antisocial behaviour just want to hear the perpetrators say that they are sorry. The people who cover a wall with offensive graffiti may have drunk a bit too much to be able to think straight, but the victims of that antisocial behaviour want to be able to tell them how it feelsand to see them clean it up. An important element of this debate is that people must be made aware of the impact of their antisocial behaviour on its victims.
In my area, most ASBOs are imposed after a crime has been committed. That system has its merits, but I
believe that many of the people who are given an ASBO are already too far down the line. We should use the antisocial behaviour measures that we have introduced to nip criminal activity in the bud. When behaviour becomes criminal, it is often too late to do anything to change the pattern of offending. I want there to be more emphasis on early intervention to stop people engaging in antisocial behaviour and then going on to commit crimes.
Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): The impact of antisocial behaviour on communities and individuals cannot be overestimated, and it must be tackled effectively. The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety opened this debate by saying that we should adopt a reflective approach, and I welcome that. The debate is about striking the balance between preventive and putative measuresbetween support and action. I have agreed with a lot of what has been said by the many hon. Members who have commented on that balance.
One form of preventive action is the Sure Start scheme, which many Members have mentioned today and about which I have spoken on many occasions, because the Government are to be congratulated on it. However, it will take time for the effects of the first Sure Start programmes to work through and, because the schemes are confined to the most deprived wards, many families who live just outside those areas may not yet have been included.
Preventive strategies are essential. A report submitted to the Public Accounts Committee made it clear that there is much more scope for preventive action, as Liberal Democrats point out in every debate on antisocial behaviour. Such action is important. I would like more work to be done through our childrens services and childrens trusts to identify children who may be at risk, so that suitable measures can be adopted as soon as possible.
Before I was elected I was knocking on doors in one of the villages in my Dorset constituency and I was surprised that in household after household people told me that there were terrible antisocial behaviour problems. Eventually, an ASBO was imposed on one young manin fact, it was the first ASBO that Purbeck district council, in conjunction with Dorset police, had managed to secure. However, although that ASBO was absolutely necessary, it was only necessary because there had been no earlier interventions. The village no longer had a community beat officer and many other things were lacking. I accept that there are occasions when ASBOs are needed as a stop measure to protect the community, but we should focus on the whole toolkit, as we have said many times, starting with warnings, which are cost-effective, as the National Audit Office report tells us.
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