ANTISOCIAL behaviour has long been a scourge on our streets.
Admittedly, it does not kill people and only in extremely rare circumstances are victims left hugely out of pocket.
However, antisocial behaviour — while considered to be at the lower end of the criminal spectrum — frequently blights communities and reduces the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country.
South Derbyshire — Swadlincote town centre and Woodville, in particular — has recently taken centre stage in two high-profile cases of antisocial behaviour.
Two yobs, Peter Williamson and Joshua Matlock, have both been named and shamed in the Mail during the past fortnight having received antisocial behaviour orders (ASBOs) from the courts. Williamson, 18, of Coton Park, Linton, was also jailed for a year.
They found themselves in trouble with the law for similar although entirely unconnected reasons — thuggish behaviour that wreaked upset and misery on those who bore the brunt.
Whether the ASBOs will curb Matlock, 20, formerly of Small Thorn Place, Woodville, and Williamson’s loutishness remains to be seen. The granting of two such similar orders, however, in such quick succession raises questions about antisocial behaviour and the way with which it is dealt.
It is clear the police have adopted a hard line in Matlock and Williamson’s cases, but the lawyer who prosecuted Williamson this week spoke at length in court about a culture of ‘low-level public nuisance, caused by youths hanging around local shops and confronting people as they go into shops’.
The lawyer said Williamson’s ASBO, which bans him from entering Swadlincote town centre for two years, was necessary to stop ‘the sort of behaviour the police are trying to prevent so the residents of Swadlincote have the confidence to go out to the shops without a problem’.
Neil Tilley, who represents Swadlincote on South Derbyshire District Council as well as chairing the town’s quarterly area forum and safer neighbourhood meetings, said antisocial behaviour, where ever it occurs, is ‘never to be accepted’.
“I think you get antisocial behaviour everywhere and Swadlincote is no different, but it’s not particularly bad here compared to other places,” Councillor Tilley said.
Statistics do not show Swadlincote is a crime hotspot and few people doubt that police are determined to drive down antisocial activity. Indeed the police, along with the district council, have come down hard on yobs in fighting for these recent ASBOs.
Councillor Tilley added: “No-one will accept antisocial behaviour, whether on a street, a private road or an estate.
“In Swadlincote town centre, antisocial behaviour tends to come and go in waves. The police are very quick to respond to it and if people are causing a nuisance outside shops then they should reap the consequences of what they are doing.
“Nine times out of 10, young people do not cause a problem but if people feel intimidated going into a shop then that needs to be dealt with.”
Councillor Tilley also warned that the perception of crime was often worse than the risk of crime itself.
“Antisocial behaviour moves around the district and I would not say Swadlincote town centre was a particular focus,” he said. “It does creep up now and then and the police are quick to move in on it.”
The ASBOs given to Williamson and Matlock are welcome news. We all hope it sends a firm message to other youths.