Antisocial behaviour is a topic keenly debated by politicians, in the hope of winning votes. Far from a niche issue, it is a widespread problem that profoundly affects the lives of millions of people. Research suggests that one in four UK adults has experienced antisocial behaviour that made them feel unsafe in their local area*. It can be the reason why an otherwise thriving place becomes a no-go area, which is not only worrisome for residents but for local authorities and commercial interests, too.
No-one wants to feel vulnerable, afraid or simply miserable because of where they live. So, regardless of political leanings, it is in everyone’s interest to reduce antisocial behaviour, and those with buildings sitting empty have a huge part to play in fighting the battle. Whether you work for a local council, a housing association, or you own commercial sites, it will be unavoidable that sometimes your buildings will become empty.
Unfortunately, while traditional security methods like security screens on doors and windows can be helpful for physical security, they do rather advertise the fact that a property is empty, potentially increasing the likelihood of unlawful use of the space, and unlawful activity occurring within it.
The term ‘Antisocial behaviour’ covers a range of criminal and non-criminal activities including: threatening, harassing or unruly behaviour, drunkenness, loitering, drug use or the leaving of drug paraphernalia in public places, vandalism, graffiti, fly-tipping, littering and continual loud noise, such as music or dogs barking.
An empty building exacerbates the potential for a community suffering many of these kinds of antisocial behaviour. Most obvious are squatting, the property being used for criminal activity, and metal stripping and theft.
However, there is a solution. By housing responsible people in unused buildings, the owner and the local community can have confidence that a property and its surroundings will be cared-for and protected. Our ‘property guardians’ do far more than increase an area’s headcount. They take their responsibility to the local area seriously, and are proactive in increasing the safety of the area. Our field team also carry out monthly inspections of all properties under our management, and are additionally on the lookout for any suspicious activity or foul play.
A brilliant example of guardianship at its finest was during the handback phase of a property in Uxbridge, west London. As ASB had been of particular concern for the property owners, Dot Dot Dot requested for one of our more experienced guardians to remain in the property during the last night of the project. During the night, our guardian discovered an intruder looking to break in and cause damage. Due to our guardian’s care and diligence, a crisis was averted and the keys and property were both safely returned to the owners the following morning.
As Gillian Dart, Peabody’s Thamesmead Regeneration Project Officer puts it: “Dot Dot Dot has provided us with a service which we can trust. Not only do their guardians provide a presence and help make our residents feel safe during this interim period, they are fully involved in the community, offering valuable volunteering too.”
A key issue with antisocial behaviour is that many instances go unresolved. It is likely that victims feel unmotivated to report issues if they have been dissatisfied with a response to a previous report. In an effort to turn this tide, our guardians are actively and regularly encouraged to report antisocial behaviour, and are further empowered by our provision of a clear and safe channel for them to do so. We keep a log of all reports to ensure each case is sensitively handled and monitored effectively, and follow up with the guardians and the police wherever possible to ensure that the right course of action has been taken. Property owners are also made aware of any cases so that they’re able to follow up with residents or the police as necessary.
All Dot Dot Dot guardians also volunteer for local causes, and many create their own community initiatives, such as local WhatsApp groups so that together they can check in on neighbours, and create deeper connections. Dot Dot Dot guardian in Poplar, Sam, reflects: “As a guardian, you are at the heart of the community. There’s a social awareness that comes with being a guardian. And that’s been one of my favourite aspects so far.”
Antisocial behaviour is one of the most disruptive and upsetting problems facing local communities, and it is our belief that property owners are key to its reduction. Dot Dot Dot can partner with you to answer this important issue, and create happy, healthy, safe places, where communities thrive.
*Statistics based on the findings of a study by Resolve and YouGov.