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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 01:25 GMT
Blunkett's yob culture purge
David Blunkett
Home Secretary David Blunkett is hoping to 'reclaim communities' from the scourge of anti-social behaviour. Here he explains how he plans to do it:

Your chance of being a victim of crime is at its lowest for 20 years but it doesn't always feel like that.

I know that frightening gangs on street corners, neighbours from hell, tearaway children and drug pushers are the very things which make us feel uneasy and unsafe.

They can ruin lives - they can certainly ruin the quality of our lives.

A yobbish minority can still make the lives of hard working citizens a living hell
Every town has problems with anti-social behaviour whether that is on a particular estate or in the town or city centre.

Readers will all have first hand experience.

It might seem relatively small - spray painted graffiti, an abandoned car, a broken window. Or it can feel more threatening - a gang late at night, a beggar at the cashpoint, young kids using passers-by as target practice.

Blaring music

But left unchecked this has a big impact on communities.

They lower pride in neighbourhoods and create a climate of lawlessness which more serious criminals exploit.

Too often I hear from people in my own Sheffield constituency who are afraid to step outside their front door, afraid of being mugged or whose lives are being ruined by neighbours whose music blares out all night.

We all need to play a part in tackling this scourge
Crime has fallen by more than a quarter since 1997. But a yobbish minority can still make the lives of hard working citizens a living hell.

For too long some of our public services have shrugged their shoulders at this low-level thuggery and said it's somebody else's responsibility.

It's not - we all need to play a part in tackling this scourge.

People cannot continue to expect something for nothing - they must realise rights in our communities can only come when they take responsibility for their actions and neighbourhood.

Noisy neighbours

That's why I am setting out how the government plans to reclaim communities for the decent, law-abiding majority.

We have already acted by starting to reform the courts, introducing anti-social behaviour orders and piloting fixed penalty notices, but I want to go further.

Noisy neighbours can cause great distress to families who endure night after night of loud music or blaring televisions. This selfishness cannot be allowed to go unstopped.

We will give more powers to local authorities and environmental health officers so they can more easily tackle noisy neighbours through fines.

And they will also be given powers to close down pubs, clubs and entertainment outlets which are shattering the peace of communities.

Throwing fireworks

But noise can be just one part of a family's anti-social behaviour.

Parents whose children terrorise estates will be made to bring their children under control.

If they cannot do it on their own, we will help - but we will ensure they face serious consequences if they don't take the support on offer.

And I want 16 and 17-year-olds to receive fixed penalty notices of up to 80 for offences such as causing alarm or harassment, throwing fireworks or being drunk and disorderly.

Of course, drugs and the consequences of Class A drug addiction has a major impact on many of our communities.

Crack houses

A crime wave follows in their wake which has a devastating effect on local communities, causing nuisance, fear and intimidation.

Crack houses attract the worst of our society - users can be violent, aggressive and unpredictable.

I am proposing that drug dens where Class A drugs are sold and used should be shut within 48 hours. They will be sealed for three months so the dealers cannot simply move back.

Recent tragedies show the devastating effect guns can have on communities.

The government is committed to taking guns off our streets. We will introduce a 5-year minimum sentence for illegal possession or use of a firearm.

'Low-level thuggery'

Airguns and replicas will be banned from public places.

The government knows these measures can only work with someone to enforce them.

Record numbers of police already patrol our streets - nearly 130,000, the highest number since 1921.

We have increased the number of neighbourhood wardens and there are more than 1,000 new community support officers who have a key role to play in taking on anti-social behaviour.

Low-level thuggery is not a victimless crime. For too long people have not had their voices heard. No longer will they suffer the insult of feeling their rights are second to the criminal.

Alcohol

I want to speed up existing legislation so justice is delivered more quickly and efficiently in the community.

But these measures will only be successful if everyone in society works together.

Residents, parents, local authorities and businesses need to show leadership and use the new powers we are giving them.

Shops should not sell alcohol to children and we will ensure they can't sell it to an adult buying it on their behalf.

We all need to take responsibility - to stand-up and be counted as a member of society, to make clear what types of behaviour are acceptable and what are not, to report crimes to the police and to ask for help.

We need a culture change in our society - to accept that our rights as citizens come with responsibilities, to move from selfishness to selflessness; from disrespect to respect; from fear to confidence.

Working together we can make a difference, turning all our communities into safe, clean places to live and work.




SEE ALSO:
Blunkett targets yob culture
12 Mar 03 |  Politics
Beggars barred from city centre
03 Feb 03 |  England
Crackdown on begging
30 Aug 02 |  England
Police round up city beggars
17 Feb 03 |  England
Queen unveils Blair's crime blitz
13 Nov 02 |  Politics
Police praise 'spot fine' trial
16 Sep 02 |  England


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