May targets anti-social behaviour
The Government's approach to tackling anti-social behaviour must be turned on its head, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.
Outlining plans which signalled a possible end for anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) in England and Wales, Mrs May said: "It is time for us to stop tolerating anti-social behaviour."
Strong community action must be used instead to bring back a sense of personal and social responsibility and to make anti-social behaviour "unusual, abnormal and something to stand up to", she said.
"We must turn the system on its head," Mrs May said. "There is no magic Whitehall lever we can pull simply to stop anti-social behaviour. No magic button to press or tap to turn to stop the flow of misery.
"The solution to your community's problems will not come from officials sitting in the Home Office working on the latest national action plan. We will put power into the hands of our citizens and we will put our trust into the professionals."
Speaking at the Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre in Southwark, London, Mrs May said one person in every seven believes their local area suffers from high levels of anti-social behaviour, leading to millions of tarnished lives and costing billions of pounds a year to tackle.
Government proposals include a sweeping crackdown on binge drinking, reforming the licensing laws and a bid to make police a more responsive and accountable part of local communities.
Mrs May said she wants officers to be able to use their "common sense" to deal with anti-social behaviour, with punishments being "rehabilitative and restorative" rather than "criminalising". "It's time to move beyond the Asbo," she said.
The key speech came as official figures from the Ministry of Justice showed more than half of the almost 17,000 Asbos issued between June 2000 and December 2008 were breached, leading to an immediate custodial sentence in more than half of the cases.
But shadow home secretary Alan Johnson defended Asbos, which were brought in to deal with persistent minor offenders whose actions might not otherwise have been punished, saying they made huge contributions towards tackling crime and anti-social behaviour.