Bijan Ebrahimi

Garry Newlove

David Askew

Fiona Pilkington

All names we are painfully familiar with. All victims of anti-social behaviour.

Every day across the country thousands of reports of ASB flood into agencies.  Indeed since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a big increase in reports, with many agencies seeing caseloads skyrocket.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014 provides an excellent toolkit for addressing ASB within our communities.  It includes powers of varying severity, supporting practitioners in an incremental approach within their ASB strategy.

But perhaps the most underutilised of those tools is the Community Trigger

(The ASB Case Review).

A victim’s right to call for a review of their case by a multi-agency panel, when the anti-social behaviour is still ongoing and there are further actions available to address it.

It’s as simple as that. 

So why is it so underutilised?  In a freedom of information request submitted recently by BBCs Panorama – “Anti Social Behaviour – Afraid in My Own Home”, it was found that out of the 195 local authorities approached, 1 in 5 of them had never held a Community Trigger.

In 2016 ASB Help’s then CEO Jenny Herrera compiled and published a report entitled “Community Trigger: Empowerment or Bureaucratic Exercise?

In this report, we detailed several issues that were identified at the time,

1. there is great confusion over how to use the Community Trigger;

2. there has been limited publicity of the Community Trigger meaning that many victims who would be entitled to activate it are unaware of its existence;

3. statutory guidance to make the Community Trigger accessible to all victims has been

frequently ignored; and

4. data on its usage is very difficult to obtain and effectively compare

The Statutory Guidance, which was updated in January 2021, states:

Community Trigger Threshold – To be defined by the local agencies, but not more than three complaints in the previous six month period.

May also take account of:

• the persistence of the anti-social behaviour;

• the harm or potential harm caused by the anti-social behaviour;

• the adequacy of response to the anti-social behaviour.

The relevant bodies must publish details of the procedure to ensure that victims are aware that they can apply in appropriate circumstances, this gives victims of persistent anti-social behaviour the ability to demand a formal case review where the locally defined threshold is met, in order to determine whether there is further action that can be taken.

The onus is therefore put on local partnerships to specify their own policy on the administration of the Community Trigger, allowing caveats to be added which result in a “postcode lottery” for victims. 

When we looked at the threshold, we have seen locally determined caveats such as:

where 5 households in the immediate vicinity have reported the same issue”

  • this was included in the guidance when the Community Trigger was originally piloted but removed once it went live.  What impacts one household may not have the same impact on another, in taking a harm centred approach we must put the victim first, therefore it is not reasonable to expect a victim’s case to be supported by 5 other households before we review it.

where the case has been closed by the investigating agencies

  • this clause simply doesn’t make sense as part of the CT threshold, as if a case had been closed this would suggest the anti-social behaviour is no longer ongoing.  There would be no requirement for the Community Trigger if the ASB is no longer ongoing.

If a case has been closed it should be immediately reopened if there are further reports of ongoing antisocial behaviour, therefore this caveat is not appropriate.

As practitioners, we have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for victims to access the community trigger, and therefore we recommend adhering to the statutory guidance as closely as possible.  The old adage “keep it simple” really does say it all.

We must also look at how, as practitioners, our perception of the Community Trigger can become an obstacle.  We often see resistance from agencies in engaging with the CT process, fear that their work may be questioned, professional pride that they don’t need to explain their actions to other agencies. We’ve been working in silos for too long, and it is so important that we realise partnership working, sharing information and working together is absolutely key to addressing anti-social behaviour.

The Community Trigger is not a complaints process, it is not an exercise in finding fault or apportioning blame. It is a proactive tool designed to convene a panel of experienced professionals with a wide and varied range of skills and knowledge to review the facts of the case and consider what actions are available moving forwards to resolve the issues.

Do we sometimes realise there may have been missed opportunities? Yes, of course, but how else do we learn and develop our ways of working if we don’t consider what has or hasn’t worked before?

Ultimately, all a victim of antisocial behaviour wants is for it to stop.  They want their lives to be peaceful, and to feel safe. Fiona Pilkington suffered for 10 years before she finally could take no more, perhaps if the CT was available then things may have been different, we will never know.

Consider how well you promote the Community Trigger, are victims within your communities aware of it?  We believe best practice would be to include a clear explanation of the community trigger process and how to access it, clearly visible on all relevant agency websites.  But why stop there?  Actively promote it, perhaps include links on any anti-social behaviour related correspondence, emails, posters.

When we receive enquiries from victims throughout the country, often they report problems such as links that don’t work on agency websites, or forms that need to be printed and completed, indeed having access to a computer in itself is a barrier for some let alone a printer, and we promote the provision of a telephone option for victims to raise the trigger by calling and talking to a practitioner. Often the victims of anti-social behaviour we work with are vulnerable, and if they weren’t before, the mere experience of serious and persistent anti-social behaviour and the impact it inevitably has would make them so.

It is imperative we look at all the ways in which we promote the community trigger, and consider accessibility with all needs in mind.

So how do we overcome these obstacles?

Firstly let’s do some myth-busting…..

  • The victim needs to raise/apply for a CT/ASB  Review themselves – FALSE… Anyone can apply for a trigger review on behalf of the victim who is aware of the circumstances, and with the victims consent.
  • CT is a complaints process – FALSE … as e discussed earlier the CT process aims to give cases a collective review of what action has been taken so far, with an opportunity for a ‘fresh pair of eyes’, aimed at preventing repeat victimisation and escalation, therefore safeguarding communities.
  • A single agency can resolve reports of ASB – FALSE… whilst this may be true for what appears to be a single simple incident, to fully understand what is happening with victims and perpetrators, a joint approach is absolutely the way to go. Agencies need to be aware of what else may be going on and what others may be doing to help. Practitioners should get into the habit of asking victims if anyone else is involved with their case at the outset – this may also be an indicator that a Trigger needs to be considered.
  • A Trigger Threshold must be 3 incidents in 6 months – FALSE… Local Authorities can introduce their own caveats to ensure that the best possible service is given to victims, ensuring a Harm Centred Approach – consideration should be given to including other factors, such as incidents of Hate Crime, or fewer incidents of ASB.  The point here is that introducing caveats should be done to make the community trigger easier for victims, not harder.

At ASB Help we believe there are 6 key points to adhere to when using the Community Trigger. Firstly promoting awareness, as mentioned above ensuring the victims of antisocial behaviour within your communities are aware of, understand and know how to access the community trigger is vital. Secondly, look at your policy, confirm your organisation is legally compliant and embraces the spirit of the community trigger.  Look at the threshold requirements and ask yourself if it puts the victim first. Next, adapt your process to ensure that the most vulnerable are able to access and use the trigger.  Consider all needs and characteristics, and make adjustments such as telephone support, translation services, sign language and braille.  Fourth, continually review the way you work.  Learn from past cases, look at lessons that can be learned and don’t hesitate to update your policies regularly to ensure you are embracing the full potential of the community trigger. Fifth, maximise the benefits of partnership working, build relationships with partners and agencies and draw on their expertise.  Working collaboratively will enable you to find the best possible outcomes for cases. Finally, challenge yourselves to put the victim first every time, use the community trigger as it was intended as a tool to problem solve and tackle antisocial behaviour effectively thus deterring perpetrators.

There are some excellent examples of the community trigger process being implemented throughout the country. Below is an example from Dyfed Powys Police:

Creating the process.…

  1. Engaged with stakeholders including CSP Managers, Housing Managers, Environmental health leads, Hywel Dda Health Board, OPCC.
  2. Created a robust and inclusive policy which encompasses template letters, terms of reference, process flow chart, agreed timescales for victim updates.
  3. Liaised with the OPCC to create a viable appeals process which provides the applicant 28 days to appeal where one or more of a set criteria is met- Threshold letter, factual information, policy or process.
  4. Improved accessibility -Single Online Home, email, 101, post or via neighborhood police/safer neighbourhood teams.
  5. Ensured we met our statutory obligations by updating our threshold and removed 5 households caveat. Added one hate crime/incident. Furthermore, we added a clause for a person with appropriate seniority to invoke a trigger regardless of the role of the applicant. We also welcome trigger applications from agencies with the consent of the victim.
  6. Created a statistics website and provided to the LA’s for their website.

Implementing the Community Trigger…….

  1. On receipt of the application we will notify the SPOC’s within the relevant agencies and request a 5-day turnaround to provide their information for the parties involved.
  2. We will consider the seriousness and persistence of the ASB and take harm centred approach, asking who the actual victim is?
  3. We understand that on occasions the lines between victim and offender can be blurred so we keep an open mind and consider providing the alleged offender with the same opportunities in the process as the alleged victim.
  4. Our officers will complete a risk assessment, where necessary this may be escalated. Occasionally, some victims don’t understand the level of risk involved.
  5. For medium and high-risk cases, we refer victims to our in-house support service namely Goleudy. Low risk cases will still be offered support via other available services who best meet the needs of the individual.
  6. The needs of all the parties involved will be assessed and will seek to offer advocacy services or specific support where required.
  7. We will review the information provided by Police and partners to assess the previous interventions and their effectiveness.
  8. We encourage our teams to share information with our partners at the earliest opportunity so the problem-solving process can begin. We encourage our teams to request feedback from our partners where they are the lead agency.
  9. We co-ordinate the dates for the case review and any follow up meetings. The panel will be provided with minutes and actions and we centrally collate all the documentation required.
  10. We request consent from our victims to appoint an independent chair which demonstrates we are open and transparent in our attempts to problem-solve. Additionally, we welcome the opportunity for an independent chair to approach the case with fresh eyes.
  11. Once the threshold has been met, we appoint our local ASB Co-ordinator as the point of contact for the victim. The co-ordinator will be on hand to discuss any queries the victim may have during the process. We created specific timescales for the victims to be updated throughout the process to reassure them that their case is being progressed.
  12. The victim will be provided with a link to Evidence.com which provides the victim with the opportunity to upload any evidence for the panel review.
  13. The victim and/or an advocate are provided with 15 minutes at the start of the review to address the panel and provide details of how the case has affected them. We appreciate this may not be to everyone’s desire, so they also have the option to provide an A4 impact statement prior to the review.

This is a great example of the community trigger being first embedded into the ASB response, and then utilised effectively, including partners, support services and using the statutory guidance to prioritise the victim and find the best possible outcome.

Bijan Ebrahimi, David Askew, Garry Newlove, Fiona Pilkington.  The community trigger wasn’t available to them, maybe the outcome would have been different if it was, maybe it wouldn’t.

But by implementing its effective use in the way you work, maybe you can help prevent more names from being added to that list.

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Out of 195 councils approached by BBC Panorama, 1 in 5 of them had never held a community trigger. ASB Help provides advice and support to victims of anti-social behaviour in England and Wales. In this article they discuss obstacles to effective access and implementation of the community trigger.

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