The Crime and Disorder Act (2008) defines anti-social behavior as “…acting in a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as [the defendant]”. According to Nixon et al (2003), people understand anti-social behavior differently based on a series of factors including time, context, location, community tolerance and quality of life expectations. As a result what may be regarded as an anti-social behavior to one person may be seen as an unacceptable behavior to another person. The understanding of anti-social behavior is based on the individual perceptions and may include a wide range of behaviors (Haradine et al, 2004). Anti-social behavior causes damage to many fragile communities and if unchecked it may lead to decline of neighborhoods with people moving from their homes to other places which they regard safe.
Anti-social behavior damages the quality of life of the most vulnerable people through the infliction of fear and victimization. It also leads to individuals, families, communities, schools, local authorities, businesses and the governments to incur costs not always planned for. Hence there is a need of devising different methods of tackling anti-social behavior.
In my area, Leeds, the levels of youth crime are high with very high rates of youths in police custody every other given day. Most youths especially in the ages between 10 years and 24 years of age engage in anti-social behavior which most people are always offended by and do not take lightly. Some of these anti-social behaviors in my area include: rowdy and nuisance behavior by the youth, playing of loud music both during the day and late night hours, vandalism, graffiti and fly posting, taking over of public spaces by gangs, drug dealing and drug abuse, anti-social drinking, misuse of fireworks, dumping of rubbish and all manners of waste among many other behaviors. Most residents in the Leeds neighborhood have the feelings of being insecure and have even contemplated shifting to other places where they can feel secure and have a peace of mind if the situation is not rectified. In fact some of the residents in my area have left the neighborhood as a result of ‘taking it no more’. The quality of life has deteriorated and the old people together with women being most vulnerable to these anti-social behavior.
These youth crime incidents in my neighborhood can be attributed to various factors which include:
Family conflicts. The ever rising conflicts among families especially those involving parents and children have led to most of these children to engage in these crimes. As a result of these conflicts the youths tend to involve in anti-social behavior as a way of getting out of their frustrations and getting out of that situation.
Mental Illness. According to Home Office, antisocial behavior can be a symptom of mental illness. This is evidenced by the increase of poor mental health in children and the youth over the years particularly among the socially disadvantaged. In my neighborhood it is estimated that 30% of the anti-social behavior involve someone with a mental health problem either as a perpetrator or the victim.
Availability of drugs and alcohol. Most of the young people in my neighborhood involve in drug abuse and alcoholism. Cannabis has been found to be the most popular among the youths and its hallucinogenic effects which sometimes lead to paranoia have always led to anti-social behavior. Excessive drinking has also led to some anti-social behavior including rowdiness and loud music.