Lessons learnt from pandemic in tackling anti-social behaviour

Homeless in west Norfolk

A council officer said lessons could be learnt from the response to homelessness during the pandemic, when it comes to dealing with anti-social behaviour post-pandemic. - Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/Ian Burt

Lessons in tackling anti-social behaviour can be learnt from the radical response to eliminating homelessness during the pandemic, a council official has said. 

At a Tuesday briefing session of West Norfolk council’s environment and community panel, officer Mark Whitmore explained how the authority had been handling anti-social behaviour in recent years. 

He gave one case study of a street drinker who committed 99 drunk and disorderly offences in 2017 alone. 

The person had been homeless for some 15 years and was said to be “very aggressive, abusive and intimidating when drunk”.

Two criminal anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) and two criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) were issued, leading to a night in custody and a small fine. 

This was followed by an injunction but it was repeatedly breached by the serial drinker, who was sentenced to six months in prison.

“But it didn’t change the behaviour," said Mr Whitmore.

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“We were going round in a loop with this person, unfortunately, being dealt with through the criminal and civil process.”

“In 2020, Covid struck, and we had an ‘all-in’ process for homelessness and that actually, if there could ever be an upside to a global pandemic - which perhaps you can’t really say there is - the ‘all-in’ for homelessness did give us an opportunity to reset this particular issue and the individual.”

The approach referred to by Mr Whitmore saw the government tell local authorities to get ‘everyone in’, by supporting everyone sleeping rough to move into self-contained accommodation.

The person in the case study was provided with a tenancy they were “really happy with”, along with a support package. 

Their anti-social behaviour was reduced and they re-established contact with their elderly parents, who they now see regularly. 

Ian Devereux, West Norfolk's cabinet member for the environment. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Conservative councillor Ian Devereux said the case study was "fascinating". - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Conservative councillor Ian Devereux said: “It’s fascinating that the pandemic actions that addressed homelessness appear to provide a solution to many years’ actions through the courts - and I wonder whether there’s any potential for that as an approach. 

"Are there some indications of actions we can follow through with in the future?”

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