Police in Tower Hamlets slash anti-social behaviour with pioneering scheme

Pic: Chris Vallance & Katie Langton

Police in Tower Hamlets have dramatically cut rates of anti-social behaviour using a system of warnings and home visits.

Officers in the borough attempted to bring down levels of anti-social behaviour, once the highest in London, and engage with offenders by first handing out warning slips and then pursuing home visits if the person reoffends.

Tower Hamlets police have issued over 3,000 warnings since September 2016. Only 5.5% of those that received a warning came to the police’s attention again, requiring an officer to visit the offender’s home and offer further support.

The pilot scheme has successfully deterred repeat offences – and seen a 30 per cent fall in the number of calls to the Met about anti-social behaviour in the borough.

A report by the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee now recommends that the idea be rolled out across the capital, as figures show a rise in anti-social behaviour.

Sergeant Colin Reed, who helped devise the new scheme, told ELL that the system was developed because “we became the worst borough in the whole of the Metropolitan Police for anti-social behaviour. So we had to do something.”

The last policing laws to deal with anti-social behaviour were passed in 2014 and defined the problem as causing harm, nuisance or alarm. It ranges from behaviour associated with prostitution to the misuse of fireworks on the streets.

While the sanctions are mostly civil injunctions, the 2014 Act does allow for offenders who have committed a crime and antisocial behaviour to be jailed for up to five years.

Reed told ELL the most common anti-social behaviour complaints in Tower Hamlets relate to “youths congregating on stairwells and the residents are quite intimidated. We have wide cannabis use and we’re also seeing an increase in the use of nitrous oxide in the streets as well. And this is a huge litter problem for Tower Hamlets.”

He added that “most parents and guardians are quite supportive of our actions. Sometimes it’s the first time that they are aware of what their son or daughter is doing outside of their family home”.

He also said, that “we’ve seen a massive change. We’ve had the biggest decline in the whole of the Met police over the last year, so it’s a massive achievement for us.”

The anti-social behaviour team at Bethnal Green Police station work closely with the community charity Streets of Growth.

Diane Peters, CEO at Streets of Growth, said that the charity works with the police to identify and target “young people that have been flagged up offenders of anti-social behaviour.”

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