Home Secretary Theresa May has said police retreating from the streets as more than 26 incidents of anti-social behaviour take place every minute is a "damning indictment" of Labour's failure to get to grips with the issue.
Mrs May spoke out after the chief inspector of constabulary said one such incident was reported to police every 10 seconds, but tackling anti-social behaviour (ASB) was often not seen as "real police work" and "does not have the same status as 'crime' for the police".
Sir Denis O'Connor said that by "retreating from the streets" since the 1970s, the police "undermined their connection with the public and allowed some of these things to gather momentum", he said.
"It was a mistake, a strategic error as they might say in military terms."
Mrs May, who signalled the end of the anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) and more emphasis on community involvement earlier this year, told Sky News: "This report is a damning indictment of Labour's failure to get to grips with anti-social behaviour.
"They spent record amounts of money but achieved nothing," she said.
"What we have seen over the past years is a Labour government talking about dealing with anti-social behaviour, spending a lot of money on it, but actually failing to get to grips with it.
"And we didn't see police out on the streets. Sir Denis's report makes clear that too much money has been spent on people sitting behind desks in meetings and not actually out there on the streets, doing the job that people want them to do be doing - which is dealing with anti-social behaviour alongside dealing with other sorts of crime."
Mrs May said plans for elected police and crime commissioners "will put communities at the heart of the solution", but the report cast doubt upon the future willingness of individuals to confront anti-social behaviour.
A poll showed 32% of those who confronted such behaviour experienced intimidation afterwards, with the figure rising to 61% in deprived areas.