Young adults and antisocial behaviour enforcement

Building on work we completed last year, we are carrying out a series of activities to further explore how antisocial behaviour (ASB) measures are being used to sanction young adults (18 to 25 year olds), particularly in areas where use of the measures is high.

ASB measures can be used by local authorities, the police, and housing providers to sanction particular behaviours in public and private spaces. 

Very little is known about ASB measures; how they are used, who is being sanctioned by them, or what the outcomes are of using this approach. There is no centralised data collection about their use and significant local discretion exists regarding when and how they might be applied. 

ASB measures have also attracted controversy. For some, they are important tools which can legitimately intervene to make public spaces places everyone can enjoy. Others have been critical about their potentially arbitrary nature, failure to address fundamental social problems, and concerns they could further marginalise vulnerable groups. 

Our project last year involved over 800 freedom of information requests to local councils, police forces and the Ministry of Justice, as well as conversations with council and police officers responsible for using ASB measures on the ground. The main findings of this work were:

  • Young adults constitute a key part of the workload of council and police antisocial behaviour teams across England and Wales, with 36 per cent of prosecutions for breach of ASB measures being 18 to 25 years old.
  • Practice varied significantly between areas, with three areas responsible for 70 per cent of all prosecutions of young adults for breach of community protection notices, and 17 of 41 police force areas we had data for accounted for 82 per cent of all young adult prosecutions for breach of dispersal powers.
  • Data collection at the local level is poor, meaning we were unable to disentangle why this variation existed and the particular ASB issues different areas face. 

We will be finding out more about how ASB measures are being used in relation to young adults in the areas where the number of prosecutions for breach is high, and using this evidence to help inform future practice in those areas. This will include exploring the range of different approaches to the particular ASB issues these areas face.

Our work will involve a series of regional events as well as conversations with people in councils and police forces responsible for ASB enforcement to help make sense of our freedom of information data and hone our influencing work. 

We are grateful to the Barrow Cadbury Trust who are funding this piece of work.

You can read the two reports we produced last year about this subject here and here

Contact Matt Ford for further information.