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The Home Office: Tackling Anti-Social Behaviour

The majority of people who received an anti-social behaviour intervention, in a sample of cases examined by the National Audit Office, did not re-engage in anti-social behaviour. But, for a number of perpetrators interventions had limited impact. Seventeen per cent of the population perceive high levels of anti-social behaviour in their area and the cost to government agencies of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales is approximately £3.4 billion per year.

A report published today by the National Audit Office found that around 65 per cent in a sample of 893 people who received some form of anti-social behaviour intervention did not engage in further anti-social behaviour. There was however a hard core of perpetrators for whom interventions had limited impact. Twenty per cent of the people in the sample received 55 per cent of all interventions issued.

The study looked at the impact of three of the most commonly used interventions: warning letters, Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Anti-Social Behaviour Orders. The success rate for those receiving warning letters or Acceptable Behaviour Contracts were similar, with around two thirds receiving just one form of intervention from the authorities. However, over half of those who received the strongest form of intervention – an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) – breached the Order, and one third did so on five or more occasions. Forty per cent of people who received an Anti-Social Behaviour Order had received an earlier anti-social behaviour intervention and 80 per cent had previous criminal convictions.

The Home Office’s Anti-Social Behaviour Unit has successfully supported local areas to tackle anti-social behaviour through funding 373 Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinators, promoting the use of new tools and powers and providing training to practitioners. Whilst 21 per cent of the population perceived high levels of anti-social behaviour in 2002-03, by 2005-06 this had fallen to 17 per cent. There is however, a significant regional disparity in levels of perception, from 29 per cent of people in London perceiving high levels of anti-social behaviour to 7 per cent in Essex and Lincolnshire. In general the young and least well off are disproportionately adversely affected.

In four of the twelve the areas visited by the NAO, local co-ordinators working to tackle anti-social behaviour were concerned that a lack of capacity and experience of using anti-social behaviour legislation within their local authorities’ legal services departments meant that breaches were not always dealt with in a timely manner, creating frustration in the local community. This frustration appears to be compounded by fear of reprisal for individuals who report incidents, and concerns that witness intimidation is a factor in the breakdown of legal processes when dealing with breaches of intervention.

Local agencies would be better placed to target their interventions more effectively if the Home Office undertook formal evaluation of the success of different interventions and the impact of providing support services in conjunction with enforcement. International research suggests that preventive programmes, such as education, counselling and training can be a cost effective way of addressing anti-social behaviour. The Home Office, together with other Departments, is taking this forward through the Respect Action Plan and the Government is also currently considering further legislation to address anti-social behaviour.

“Whilst 65 per cent of people in our case review did not go on to commit any further anti-social behaviour after receiving one anti-social behaviour intervention, there is a hard core of individuals who repeatedly behave in an anti-social way and for whom more action is needed. “The Home Office should formally evaluate the success of different interventions and the impact of combining enforcement interventions with support services to better advise Anti-Social Behaviour Co-ordinators at a local level. They should also consider developing and implementing further more preventive measures to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour.”

Sir John Bourn

Notes for Editors

  1. The Home Office derived that 17 per cent of the population perceive high levels of anti-social behaviour from the responses to questions on seven individual anti-social behaviour strands which formed part of the British Crime Survey 2005-06. For further details please see
  2. The figure of £3.4 billion is based on work undertaken by the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit who on 10 September 2003 undertook a one day count of all reports of anti-social behaviour to over 1,500 organisations in England and Wales. The Unit used this to estimate the total cost to agencies of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour per year. For further details, please see  .
  3. Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website, which is at Hard copies can be obtained from The Stationery Office on 0845 702 3474.
  4. The Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn, is the head of the National Audit Office which employs some 850 staff. He and the NAO are totally independent of Government. He certifies the accounts of all Government departments and a wide range of other public sector bodies; and he has statutory authority to report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which departments and other bodies have used their resources.

PN: 67/06