UK

Anti-social behaviour victims 'slipping through net'

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Media captionSir Denis O'Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary, says forces have made progress

Police are becoming better at dealing with anti-social behaviour but some victims are still "slipping through the net", the Inspectorate of Constabulary has said.

The watchdog for forces in England and Wales said police had made progress.

But it said that a third of victims were still dissatisfied with the police's performance.

The Home Office said planned changes to "confusing" laws would help officers "really tackle the problem".

The fresh assessment comes two years after the inspectorate published a highly-critical report of how the 43 forces in England and Wales were handling requests to deal with anti-social behaviour.

In total police received about 3.2 million reports relating to anti-social behaviour in the past year.

The inspectorate said only a handful of forces asked callers if they were repeat-victims.

Sir Denis O'Connor, the chief inspector of constabulary, said that every force had improved its performance since the first report and that they should be commended for this, given the cuts.

HMIC questioned 9,000 people and found more than half were satisfied with how the police had handled their call for help - but the inspectors said that it was unacceptable that a third were not. One in seven of all callers had contacted the police for help more than 10 times.

None of the forces were carrying out checks on the phone to establish whether victims were in vulnerable situations, said the report, and that there was a lot of reliance on software that could only identify part of the problem.

The report said: "Software cannot pick up if a caller has repeatedly suffered ASB before but is calling police about it for the first time.

"This means some victims are effectively slipping through the net and not getting the extra support they may need."

The initial HMIC report came in the wake of the case of Fiona Pilkington who killed herself and her disabled daughter after suffering a decade of abuse from local gangs.

Sir Denis said: "You cannot say it [anti-social behaviour] can be absolutely eliminated, that would be false. But what you've actually got to actively do, professionally, is reduce [anti-social behaviour] and this is the path to reducing the likelihood of that awful thing happening again."

Merseyside, Northumbria and Surrey came out top in the survey - with the Metropolitan Police, Bedfordshire, North Wales and West Midlands performing worst.

Deputy Chief Constable Simon Edens, anti-social behaviour lead for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said the report was "encouraging".

He added: "While this report recognises the improvements that all forces have made, there is still some work to ensure that police officers and staff ask the right questions of victims so that we can identify if someone is vulnerable or has been victimised before."

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation which represents rank-and-file officers, said: "Anti-social behaviour blights many peoples' lives and we must ensure that it remains a priority for policing.

"However, the cut to the police budget will mean that chief officers will have very difficult decisions to make about priorities and deployment of resources as police numbers continue to fall."

The Home Office spokesman said: "Plans in our anti-social behaviour White Paper will give victims the chance to have their problem dealt with immediately.

"We will slash the confusing legislation that leaves victims without a voice, and police and other agencies without the ability to really tackle the problem.

"And from November, Police and Crime Commissioners will provide a stronger and more accountable police force."

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