Rishi’s Right on Rubbish

Antisocial behaviour is a persistent issue that affects communities across the UK, causing significant harm to those who live with it daily. Crimes often dismissed as “petty” can have a corrosive impact on public trust in the police and legal system, creating a climate of unease and threat. That is why Rishi Sunak’s recent announcement of an “antisocial behaviour action plan” is welcome.

This plan includes measures to make communities look and feel less prone to disorder, such as harsher on-the-spot fines for fly-tipping, graffiti and littering, and a new offence prohibiting intimidating or organised begging. Police will be given powers to test suspects for a wider range of offences and drugs, and offenders could be forced to work under supervision to clean up areas while dressed in high-visibility jumpsuits. One of the most eye-catching measures is a ban on the possession of nitrous oxide, colloquially known as laughing gas, which is a popular psychoactive substance used by young people and frequently discarded in public spaces.

The “broken windows” theory of the 1980s posits that turning a blind eye to minor offences such as vandalism can result in an area degenerating into lawlessness. Therefore, the aim should be to stop the rot early and instruct police to come down hard on lesser infractions. However, the government must ensure that its plan is enforced. The police resources are already stretched, and neighbourhood patrols have significantly dropped due to the 20,000 police number cuts during the 2010s austerity.

The history of efforts to tackle antisocial behaviour is one of a series of headline-grabbing proposals that are gradually discarded as practical obstacles emerge. However, the government is right to emphasise combating antisocial behaviour. The electorate’s verdict will come next year, and we must all work together to ensure that our communities are safe and secure places to live.

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