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Government calls time on the ASBO

Home secretary Theresa May has launched a review of anti-social behavior powers available to the police saying: “It is time to move beyond the ASBO”.

Highlighting that one in seven people believes their local area suffers from high levels of antisocial behavior, Ms May said the problem was so obvious that the last government could not ignore it. However she said the previous Labour government had taken a “top-down, bureaucratic, gimmick-laden approach” adding: “Such a centralised approach, imposed from Whitehall, can never be the best way to deal with an inherently local problem.”

The Home Secretary said that the ASBO had been seen as “the silver bullet that would cure all society’s ills”, but the latest statistics show that between 1 June 2000 and 31 December 2008, 16,895 ASBOs were issued and 9,247 or 55 per cent were breached at least once.

She said there was no “magic Whitehall lever” that could be pulled to tackle anti-social behavior in communities. The solution to different communities’ problems would not come from Home Office officials but from citizens, council employees, social workers and police officers, she added.

“We will put power into the hands of citizens. We will put our trust into the professionals,” she said. “And we expect everybody to take responsibility, take action, get involved, tell the police and the other agencies what’s going on, and hold them to account for what they do about it.”

The government’s role, she added, would be dealing with unemployment and reforming the welfare system, regaining discipline in school and putting teachers back in control in the classroom and encouraging young people to take responsibility for their communities. She also pledged that the government would overhaul the Licensing Act after highlighting that the total costs of alcohol-related crime and disorder are estimated to be between 8 and 13 billion pounds per year.

“Because tackling anti-social behavior is not just something for the police alone; it is not all about crime. Local authority workers; social landlords; health and education professionals; social services – they all need to work together, and to work with the police, to tackle anti-social behavior in whatever form it takes,” she concluded.