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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June 2005, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
Yob drive 'should target causes'
Asbo notice
The charity is calling for better prevention of anti-social behaviour
The government should do more to fight the social causes of anti-social behaviour, as well as punishing yobs, a study of public attitudes suggests.

The Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) found more than 66% of people thought prevention was the best way to tackle rowdiness and vandalism.

Just 20% thought it would be better to get tougher with offenders.

The Home Office said a recent inquiry had found its approach to anti-social behaviour to be "about right".

The ICPR team, based at King's College, London, based its research on the Home Office-commissioned British Crime Survey (BCS) and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It also included the results of focus group discussions in three case-study urban areas, one in northern Britain, one in the Midlands and one in the south of England.

We not only need to be tough on anti-social behaviour, but also tough on the causes of anti-social behaviour
Professor Mike Hough,
report co-author

The report was commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation social policy charity.

It found anti-social behaviour was not a problem for the majority of the UK population but was of "acute concern" for a significant minority, with "rowdy teenagers" having a big effect on the lives of one in five respondents to the ONS survey.

The problem was worst in deprived and inner city areas, with one third of BCS respondents in inner cities saying they thought levels of anti-social behaviour were high in their area.

Anti-social behaviour by young people appeared to cause the most concern and be most visible, although a higher proportion of the population was exposed to other types of problem such as vandalism and litter.

Asbos are, in fact, preventative orders, requiring individuals to refrain from anti-social behaviour
Home Office

Some of those questioned said they felt powerless to intervene because they feared retaliation.

The study criticised the government's Together campaign, which aims to help communities across the country tackle anti-social behaviour, for characterising the problem as a struggle between "ordinary decent folk" and a tide of "loutishness".

In reality, the matter was far more complex, it said.

It also called for the scope of Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) to be more clearly defined.

One of the study's co-authors, Professor Mike Hough, said: "The public want policy makers to balance tough enforcement through Asbos with strong, high-profile action to prevent problems and offer young people constructive alternatives to hanging around on the streets."

'Balanced approach'

A Home Office spokesman said the government's Anti-Social Behaviour Act gave agencies the power to protect communities from "the corrosive effect of harassment and intimidation".

He said: "It's important to bear in mind Asbos are, in fact, preventative orders, requiring individuals to refrain from anti-social behaviour - they are not criminal penalties and are designed to keep people out of the criminal justice system where possible."

"The Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into anti-social behaviour said recently that 'overall the balance of the government's strategy is about right.' "

Strategies for combating anti-social behaviour in the three case-study areas had all included preventive work as well as enforcement.

Professor Hough, of King's College, said this "balanced approach" should be more widely promoted.

"Visible enforcement action may provide leverage to break the vicious cycle but measures to re-build the community's own capacity to respond are crucial," he said.

"We not only need to be tough on anti-social behaviour, but also tough on the causes of anti-social behaviour."

Watch a group of youths vandalise a car

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