Anti-Social Behaviour

Following the Anti-Social Behaviour meeting on 17 July 2003, Oona secured the Speaker's Choice Adjournment Debate on the subject giving her thirty minutes with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Race Equality, Community Policy and Civil Renewal), Fiona Mactaggart MP. For a copy of Oona's speech and the Minister's response, please see the 'speeches' section of this website. Following the Debate, the following press release was sent out:

East End action to tackle Anti-Social Behaviour

Bethnal Green and Bow MP Oona King led a debate on Anti-Social Behaviour in Parliament on Thursday. The debate was called at Oona’s request following the meeting she arranged at Westminster with the Home Secretary and 150 Tower Hamlets’ residents (see below for report). Speaking from her Constituency Office before the debate Oona said:

“Anti-Social Behaviour blights the lives of so many people. I’m determined to do as much as I can to stamp it out. There is some excellent work going on in the Borough – some of the best in the country – but we also have some of the worst problems”.

Oona gave the Commons some harrowing accounts of problems in Tower Hamlets. These included drug addicts taking over communal areas and gang violence on local streets.

Oona highlighted Government measures in place, but called for further action. As well as wanting a tough line on enforcement, Oona also called for positive measures to engage young people.

“There is never any excuse for Anti-Social Behaviour. But we need to be intelligent about tackling the problem – we have to tackle it at its source, not just clear up the mess afterwards. The police, the Council, and local schools, are working much more closely”.

Oona drew attention to the Council’s action plan to reduce anti-social behaviour. This includes the development of a new street warden scheme, more visible CCTV, and helping young people into employment. The Council also plans to restrict spray paint sales to under 18’s to combat graffiti and to do more to stop fly tipping and dog fouling. Parents will also be encouraged to take greater responsibility for their children’s behaviour. This is in line with Government legislation.

“I am pleased the Government’s Anti-Social Behaviour Bill brings in powers to close down crack houses and crack down on truancy. It also widens the use of Fixed Penalty Notices to tackle noise nuisance, truancy and graffiti, restrict the use of air weapons, and to shut down establishments that create an unacceptable noise nuisance. In a nutshell, it seeks to punish the vandals and bullies that make people’s lives a misery. I was very disappointed that the Liberal Democrats voted against the Third Reading of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill. But the Government is determined to get these measures through.”

ENDS

Report: Parliamentary forum on tackling youth disorder and Anti-Social Behaviour in Tower Hamlets.

17 July 2003 – Westminster

On 17 July 2003, approximately one hundred and fifty Tower Hamlets residents and professionals gathered at a parliamentary forum to discuss the issue of youth disorder and Anti-Social Behaviour. The following notes provide a report on the issues raised, the possible solutions and the general findings of the forum. The meeting was Chaired by Oona King MP, and the speakers included the Home Secretary, Right Honorable David Blunkett MP, Louise Casey (Anti-Social Behaviour Unit), Stephen Grix (Director of Education Tower Hamlets) and Mark Simmons (Borough Police Commander). The order of the meeting was as follows: Welcome by Oona King, Open discussion with the attendees, Working Groups, Speeches, Question and Answer session and Summary by Oona King. The results of the meeting will be submitted to Government.

EDUCATION

Issues Raised

·There is a need for greater provision of after-school and summer holiday facilities for young people in Tower Hamlets.

·Schools need to educate children to aid their awareness of the community as a whole.

Working Groups

·Schools need to actively participate in helping to raise the confidence of young people.

·Schools need to encourage young people to be proud of their environment, and discourage them from destroying it.

·Schools should provide more vocational training courses for young people so that they are more employable.

Speeches

·Stephen Grix stated that ‘the improvement of education in turn improves results, which in turn improves the self esteem of the young people.’

POLICE

Issues Raised

·There is a need to improve police training on local issues in Tower Hamlets.

·There is a need to improve police visibility, in particular by placing more police on the streets rather than increasing the number of patrol cars.

Working Groups

·It is important for the police to further integrate into the community.

·The police that work in London Borough of Tower Hamlets should be more reflective of the local community – this would aid their understanding of the problems that directly relate to the residents and professionals.

·The police should publicise the Anti-Social Behaviour Order, thus making the consequences known to those that create the problems. Further to this, the police should increase their use of the Order and other relevant laws as they provide an effective tool in combating problems of Anti-Social Behaviour.

·There should be sustained efforts in increasing the police numbers, rather than only as part of a ‘blitz’ on crime.

Speeches

·Mark Simmons stated that street crime in Tower Hamlets has decreased by 14%, which is compared to a 50% increase in the previous year.

·Mark Simmons agreed with the attendees on the issue of police stations being kept open longer.

·There should be an increase in police autonomy, so that they can make local decisions, rather than having to meet central targets.

·There should be more pilot schemes of ward systems on the estates.

·There should be specific telephone number to ring instead of 999 when anti-social behaviour occurs. This would provide the community with officers that were better trained in dealing with these kinds of problems.

·There are currently police officers situated in five schools in the borough, this number should be increased as it helps to establish a good relationship between members of the community and police officers from an early age – the establishment of respect for the police.

·There should be rapid response teams that can be deployed where they are needed, rather than having police placed in fixed locations.

RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Issues Raised

·PARENTING – There should be support facilities for parents dealing with difficult children.

·PARENTING – Parents should take more responsibility for their children – Possibly instigate Parenting Orders so to encourage parents to teach and control their children.

·PARENTING – Parents should be encouraged to show respect for their peers, as this will then encourage young people to behave in a similar way to people of all ages – Learning by example.

·SERVICES – Concierges should be placed in lifts as it provides safety for residents, and will in the long run save money in maintenance and repairs by preventing the occurrence of damage.

Working Groups

·SERVICES – More money should be provided for community facilities for the young people and the elderly.

·SERVICES – There should be parenting groups that act as a forum for discussing problems, solutions and differences in approaches to parenting.

·SERVICES – The major services that deal with young people should work more closely to provide a united front in their approach to dealing with anti social behaviour, for example teachers, community workers, police and parents.

·COUNCIL - The Council should provide a service whereby members of the various agencies trying to help Tower Hamlets, can take an escorted walk around the problem areas so that they gain first hand experience of the issues that residents face.

Speeches

·Stephen Grix pointed out the need for the Council to increase the number of street cleaners, as it will in turn encourage the young people to respect the cleanliness of the streets.

·Existing leisure facilities should be used for youth sports programmes, provided by the council.

A speech was made by the Home Secretary, the Right Honorable David Blunkett MP, on the Government’s recent paper on the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill. David Blunkett outlined the initiative the government is taking to tackle the problem of youth disorder. He stressed that this was a national problem affecting all parts of the country. However, he then stated that it requires a local community response. For further details of the governments proposals please see the attachment.

A report for Oona King, written by Eleanor Dusic.