Who experiences or witnesses anti-social behaviour and in what context?

Who experiences or witnesses anti-social behaviour and in what context?

Author: Professor Andromachi Tseloni, Dr Becky Thompson, Dr James Hunter, Dr Puneet Tiwari (Nottingham Trent University), and Professor Nick Tilley (University College London)

Date: June 2020

Research summary

Research undertaken by Nottingham Trent University and University College London in the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service investigated the causes of increasing rates of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales. The findings, which formed part of the 2019 Victims’ Commissioner report for England and Wales, evidenced both anti-social behaviour prevention activity and the response strategy by agencies.

The effects of anti-social behaviour on victims' lives were described by the former Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Baroness Newlove, as a “living nightmare”. Despite more than one in three individuals having experienced or witnessed anti-social behaviour, less than a third of all cases were reported to the police, local authority, housing association, or landlord.

The research provided a comprehensive understanding of victims of anti-social behaviour, the harm caused, and the individuals, households and areas most likely to experience a high prevalence of anti-social behaviour. The research examined the links between anti-social behaviour and crime victimisation, the impact of anti-social behaviour victimisation on quality of life and daily routine and the high levels of dissatisfaction seen for police response to anti-social behaviour. The research informed policy and practice, including resource allocation, planning policy and victim assistance.

Data used

This research used two Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) datasets:

  • The ONS Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has measured crime since 1981. Alongside police recorded crime data (collected by the Home Office), the survey is a valuable source of information for the government about the extent and nature of crime. The nationally representative survey measures crime by asking members of the public about their experiences of crime over the previous 12 months. In this way, the survey records all types of crimes experienced, including those that may not have been reported to the police. It is important that the voices of those people who have and have not experienced crime are recorded, so that an accurate picture can be captured.
  • Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, is a longitudinal survey of the members of approximately 40,000 households in the United Kingdom. Households are visited each year to collect information on changes to their household and individual circumstances. Interviews are carried out face-to-face in respondents’ homes by trained interviewers or through a self-completion online survey. Young people aged 10-15 complete a youth questionnaire, while respondents aged 16 and over complete the adult survey.

Methods used

Hierarchical logistic regression was used to identify whether anti-social behaviour and its sub-types (e.g.  drink-related anti-social behaviour, vehicle-related anti-social behaviour, etc.) differed more between individuals or areas. This method accounted for the clustering of individuals within areas and found the characteristics of individuals, households and areas which correlated with increasing and decreasing rates of anti-social behaviour.

Latent variable methods were used to investigate the perceptions of anti-social behaviour. Individuals were classified by the probability of their belonging to a particular societal class or group, and by how they rated anti-social behaviour issues in their area.

Zero-inflated negative binomial models were used to investigate the self-reported impact of anti-social behaviour on a victim’s quality of life, considering their individual, household and area characteristics.

Research findings

The research ranked sub-types of anti-social behaviour by prevalence and likelihood of repeat offence. The most common sub-types of anti-social behaviour were drinking or drunken behaviour, groups loitering, inconsiderate behaviour (e.g., fireworks and throwing stones) and vehicle related anti-social behaviour (e.g., inconvenient parking or speed). The sub-types of anti-social behaviour most likely to be repeated were environmental (e.g., litter, fly tipping or dog fouling), and begging. More than half of individuals reporting repeat experiences of anti-social behaviour did so at least once a month, underlining the importance of not viewing incidents in isolation.

The individuals more likely to experience anti-social behaviour were not necessarily those who reported the highest impact on their quality of life (those who were the victims of nuisance neighbours or out of control or dangerous dogs). Those more likely to witness drinking or drunken behaviour tended to be younger, white, and with educational qualifications. They also tended to live in terraced housing or a flat, in an urban, income-deprived, higher-crime area. Those more likely to witness groups loitering, also tended to be younger with educational qualifications.

Proportion of victims who experienced anti-social behaviour at least once a month by anti-social behaviour sub-type.

Research impact

This research has been used to inform anti-social behaviour prevention activity, for example, the evidence base presented in the Victims’ Commissioner report. The research further identified the individuals and communities most vulnerable to anti-social behaviour who could be the focus of targeted activity. The findings directly inform police risk assessment practices of anti-social behaviour at the point of reporting. This has been actioned through presentations to 11 police force units and councils around the UK.

As stated by the research team, these findings could help inform intervention approaches to prevent the recurrence of incidents and the accumulation of the harms they cause. These should involve a range of partners, including the police, local authorities, housing associations, landlords, businesses, the National Health Service and the voluntary sector, to develop and implement effective responses. This insight has significantly enhanced the body of knowledge within the field, as demonstrated through presentations made to the Royal Statistical Authority, and the European, American and British Societies of Criminology.

Research outputs

Publications and reports
Blogs, news posts, and videos
Presentations and awards
  • National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Local Policing Conference, Leicester, February 2018: ‘Anti-Social Behaviour: what is it and how should we respond?’
  • Presentation at the launch of the Victims’ Commissioner ‘Living a Nightmare’ report, April 2019.
  • Presentation on the ASB Harm Index to the National Police Chiefs Council ASB workshop, May 2019.
  • Presentation on the ASB Harm Index to the Home Office ASB Advisory Strategic Board Meeting, London, October 2019.

About the ONS Secure Research Service

The ONS Secure Reseach Service (SRS) is an accredited trusted research environment that uses the Five Safes Framework to provide secure access to de-identified, unpublished data. If you would like to discuss writing a future case study with us, please get in touch: srs.dev-impact@ons.gov.uk

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