Young people - often not to blame
In response to a 2022 YouGov survey commissioned by Resolve, 50% of people said that one of the biggest ASB issues in their local area was "Youths / teenagers / groups hanging about on the streets".
However, contrary to common perceptions, young people are not the main perpetrators of ASB. In fact, young people are often the silent victims.
According to the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act (2014), ASB is classed as...
- conduct that has caused, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress to any person,
- conduct capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to a person in relation to that person's occupation of residential premises, or
- conduct capable of causing housing-related nuisance or annoyance to any person.
From this definition we can already see that simply hanging out with friends in a group is not anti-social behaviour. Of course, there is a level of subjectivity here. What somebody finds distressing may be different to what someone else finds distressing, but it is worth really considering whether the youths hanging out by the local shops are really out to cause distress - even if they are in large groups or wearing hoods. There is evidence to suggest that young people are increasingly spending their free time in larger groups and wearing hoods or face coverings because it helps them to feel safe.
That said, we know that there are young perpetrators of anti-social behaviour and it is helpful to understand some of the factors driving this behaviour. We know that when it comes to adults who perpetually cause ASB or commit crime, it is highly probable that these adults experienced trauma growing up and likely did not have:
- A positive outlet for their emotions and frustrations
- Positive role models
- Connection with a community
We ought to consider this when we respond to young people causing ASB today.
Another major pressure pushing young people to cause ASB today is boredom and not having somewhere to go in their free time to chill out and have fun.
A major new study indicates that:
- 49% of young people spend most of their free time in their bedrooms
- 41% of young people don't have opportunities to meet new people or make friends
Research from the Department of Education also reported that:
- Many young people did not feel that they had access to suitable facilities where they could legitimately take part in the types of activities they wanted to. The young people in the sample spoke of purposely socialising in isolated and quiet areas such as parks to avoid being labelled as anti-social or be reprimanded for their behaviour.
- Young people called for government to look at the causes of crime and anti-social behaviour, particularly boredom, which was seen as the primary cause. Young people felt that the provision of suitable facilities that met their needs, especially those aged between 14-16 years old, could tackle the boredom that leads to crime and ASB.
This is why it is crucial that we engage with young people who are at risk of (or already) committing crime/ASB. Thankfully, while we would like to see more funding in this area, there are already hundreds of places where young people can go to learn skills from positive role models, meet people and engage in pro-social behaviour whilst having fun and processing their emotions and frustrations.
Getting involved with a sport is a fantastic way for young people to pass the time while meeting friends, having fun and staying healthy. Sport coaches can also be positive role models who can help young people to develop confidence, resilience and motivation. There are so many different sports out there. Find your local activity/sports club here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/get-inspired/45353880
Places for young people
There are also lots of brilliant projects and initatives for young people, offering a place to go if they want to have fun, learn new skills, get involved with a sport / something creative (e.g. painting), chill out with friends or meet new people. An example of one of these places is HideOut in Manchester. Places like HideOut and other Youth Zones play a vital role in enabling young people to build rich social lives, develop skills and build resilience.
- 84% of young people in the Northwest who currently attend a Youth Zone say it has made a positive difference to their lives
- 71% say it has given them new skills
- The Music Works (Gloucestershire)
- Bristol: Key4Life https://key4life.org.uk/programme-overview/
- Croydon: Youth Hub https://www.livesnotknives.org/what-we-do/youth-hub
- London: Wild Youth Hub https://www.wildlondon.org.uk/campaigns/wild-youth-hub
- Suffolk: Catch 22 https://www.catch-22.org.uk/services/suffolk-positive-futures-2/
- Haringey: Rising Green Youth Hub https://www.youthspace.haringey.gov.uk/rising-green-youth-hub
- Islington: Wide range of places and activities https://directory.islington.gov.uk/kb5/islington/directory/results.page?searchtype=event&activity=9
- Waltham Forest area: Space 4 All https://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/stories/space4all-opens-local-hubs-young-people-waltham-forest