Antisocial behaviour, whilst largely seen as an urban issue, happens in all areas of Scotland. For those who are affected, it is distressing and can lead to fear and isolation. Agencies throughout the Outer Hebrides are there to help, although they may not have labelled their services specifically under an antisocial behaviour heading.
What is the extent of the problem?
Whilst the evidence of antisocial behaviour is detailed later in the strategy, it is important to illustrate that to date, only one Antisocial Behaviour Order has been served.
All agencies, but particularly the Comhairle and Northern Constabulary work closely with both individuals and communities to resolve any identified problems and complaints. Living in a small community, with small agency departments, enables agencies to offer an approach tailored to the needs of individuals.
Partnership is crucial to ensuring that if problems are not prevented from occurring, then every possible resource goes into early intervention, to try to prevent problems escalating. In the Outer Hebrides, partnership is at the heart of all ongoing work. It is essential however, that data sharing is progressed to enable the development of information networks for key personnel.
Who/what are we targeting?
Antisocial behaviour strategies are aimed at engaging the whole community. It important that individuals as well as communities feel engaged in the process, and recognise that this strategy is there to support their needs.
The Scottish Executive legislation aims to empower both individuals and communities to deal with antisocial behaviour in their neighbourhoods without fear. The statutory agencies, through this legislation, have been empowered to work with communities, to ensure that behaviour, which is unacceptable, is not tolerated. It allows action without the need for criminal prosecution.
The aim is to reduce the graffiti, vandalism, litter and disruptive behaviour, etc that can make day-to-day living in communities very difficult.
In the Outer Hebrides, the majority of antisocial behaviour dealt with by Northern Constabulary is within the main town of Stornoway. All the agencies will be requested to start collecting specific data on antisocial behaviour from 1 st April 2005.
How do we share information?
The need and ability to share information in relation to antisocial behaviour is a key element to the success of tackling behaviour, locally. One of the major obstacles to dealing effectively with antisocial behaviour has been the difficulty around the disclosure and sharing of information. In the past, there has been confusion around what practitioners are able to do.
The Data Protection Act governs the control of information by partner agencies. However, this was not set up to prevent agencies and departments from sharing relevant information. Section 139 of the Antisocial Behaviour ( Scotland) Act 2004, clarifies this position and makes clear the ability for information to be shared when and if appropriate.
What is in place to tackle the problem?
The Scottish Executive has provided Comhairle nan Eilean Siar with funding for tackling antisocial behaviour in the community, since 2004. This funding programme ‘Building Stronger, Safer and More Attractive Communities’, which predates the Antisocial Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004, approved Comhairle proposals for the development of three Community Warden posts in the Westside of Lewis, linking with the Better Neighbourhood programme already in place, and also the development of a mediation service, which all agencies/departments could refer to for specialist services.
Recent proposals have also included the requirement for an antisocial Behaviour Co-ordinator for the Western Isles. This would help ensure that a co-ordinated approach is taken to all aspect of antisocial behaviour, which by its very nature, cross all departments and agencies.
Alongside this, it is anticipated that Community Wardens will be rolled out into the Stornoway area. They will have a key role in helping to support the Police with the antisocial aspects of crime in the area, such as vandalism, graffiti, litter etc.
What could be in place to tackle the problem?
Whilst antisocial behaviour is not an overwhelming significant problem in the Outer Hebrides, there are, a range of behaviours which communities should not be expected to tolerate. These behaviours will be combated in line with the following principles:
Prevention work will be supported both through agency commitment and through financial resources, not only from the specific funding allocated for antisocial behaviour by the Scottish Executive, but through recognition of the role that preventative work has in reducing the incidents of antisocial behaviour in communities. This is done through a variety of methods, such as, education, diversion, social inclusion, citizenship, and the support of personal skills development.
Ensuring that behaviours fitting into the criteria of antisocial are tackled quickly and efficiently, through early intervention will be the priority. Individuals, departments and agencies will have access to clear and focused procedures, instructing them on courses of action, of which mediation will be a major contributor. It will be the aim, that the majority of cases will be resolved through this route, rather than through enforcement.
Enforcement will be considered a last resort, for incidents that have not been resolved through the procedures of early intervention. Enforcement will be carried out promptly, using the skills of specific agencies and departments, thereby reducing the suffering for victims. Publicity will be considered on an individual case basis, but will consider the needs of the community as paramount.
Rehabilitation is required to ensure that the community does not have to tolerate antisocial behaviour from a small number of individuals on a cyclical basis. Locally, work will be carried out with partners to support local initiatives already in progress and also to investigate new local, options for rehabilitating offenders.
How do we support people effectively?
Ensuring that people have clear, accurate information regarding antisocial behaviour, how to approach agencies regarding antisocial behaviour and how to seek help are key elements in the support of people locally.
In the Outer Hebrides, we do not have immediate, walk-in access to the wide range of agencies that are available on the mainland. However, all the services that are available are fully committed to the support and empowerment of individuals and communities suffering from antisocial behaviour.
The available agencies and the services they provide are detailed below:
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - All departments within the Comhairle are working together to ensure that antisocial behaviour is co-ordinated, with the expertise of all the relevant departments and staff working to ensure that incidents are dealt with appropriately.
Northern Constabulary – Incidents of antisocial behaviour tend to involve the Police from an early stage whether this is through involvement with the perpetrator or complaints from those affected. Northern Constabulary are therefore key partners, for intelligence gathering, dealing with the behaviour or in taking action to prevent further incidents.
Children’s Reporter – All young people under 16 years will have had contact with the Children’s Reporter before an antisocial behaviour order (ASBO) will be considered. The Children’s Reporter is therefore a key partner in this process.
Voluntary Sector – In the Outer Hebrides, the voluntary sector are essential partners in all aspects of community life and planning. Antisocial behaviour, especially the prevention of, and early intervention in, is contained and people supported through the contributions of many agencies within the voluntary sector.
Community Safety Partnership – Within Community Planning structures, the Western Isles Community Safety Partnership have the strategic lead for ensuring the development, monitoring, reviewing and reporting of all aspects of antisocial behaviour. In practice, a strategic subgroup was established, comprising of individuals and agencies that are involved with antisocial behaviour and have the relevant expertise to ensure the development of services that are appropriate locally.
Community Wardens – Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have 3 wardens in place, based in Ness, Westside and Uig/Bernera. It is anticipated that a further 2 wardens will be in place in the Stornoway area by Summer 2005.
The Community Wardens are in place to improve the Quality of Life and reduce the fear of crime for residents. The wardens provide a supportive between the communities and statutory agencies.
Whilst the Wardens do not have the powers that are available to the Police, they are able to act as professional witnesses and assist the Police in monitoring compliance with Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBO’s).
Antisocial Behaviour Co-ordinator – it is anticipated that this post, which will cover all of the Outer Hebrides, will be established by Autumn 2005. The main purpose of this post will be to ensure that the strategic and operational approach taken by the Comhairle and the partner agencies are co-ordinated. As suggested in the title, they will be responsible for co-ordinating all the various aspects of antisocial behaviour, from victim support, through to ensuring that the legal process is underway.