Editor's Viewpoint: New ways needed to tackle bad behaviour
The level of anti-social behaviour in Northern Ireland is shocking, according to the latest statistics. In the last year there were more than 61,200 such incidents and the number is rising.
Anti-social behaviour is a catch-all term including excessive noise, vandalism, drunkenness and potentially threatening behaviour.
Those subjected to such behaviour can feel isolated, helpless and in despair.
Who can they turn to? What remedy can they seek? Are they just leaving themselves open to more distressing incidents, or perhaps even an escalation of bad behaviour?
One method that was hailed as a way to combat anti-social behaviour when introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government has proved to be ineffective. Anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) were brought in to ensure communities didn't have to live with unacceptable levels of fear and intimidation.
However, in the year 2015/16 only two Asbos were handed out here, leading the NI Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Niacro) to dismiss it as an ineffective way of curbing anti-social behaviour. Like so many issues, identifying the problem is simple, finding a solution is much more difficult. In an ideal world, people would be more considerate of their neighbours and local community and would refrain from yob behaviour. In the case of young offenders, parents would assume responsibility and curb their actions.
But such idealism unfortunately does not exist universally. There needs to be intervention by professionals. The earlier that intervention happens the more positive results ensue. A recent consultation by the Department of Justice, which is now closed, noted actions which were taken in other parts of the UK.
Scotland has one commonsense approach to problem of people causing annoyance to neighbours through excessive noise. If they refuse to reduce the noise when asked to do so by police, they are deemed to have caused an offence.
Other alternatives include Criminal Behaviour Orders which aim to tackle the underlying causes of anti-social behaviour, and Public Space Protection Orders which place restrictions on people using a particular space.
Another fast response action comes from Closure Orders which allow police or local authorities to close premises used to cause disorder or nuisance. Certainly, we need to find new ways of stamping out anti-social behaviour.