Tue, 29 May 07
Persistent nuisance neighbours face having their homes closed and sealed under proposed new powers for police and councils...
Even homeowners could lose access to their properties for up to 12 weeks at a time in the latest measure to bear down on anti-social behaviour, reports The Guardian.
The powers, to be introduced in the forthcoming Criminal Justice Bill, were announced today by Home Office minister Vernon Coaker on a visit to a crack house in west London.
They will be based on existing crack house closure measures and similar powers in force in Scotland.
The move follows consultation with police, local authorities, housing trusts and community groups in which 86% of respondents agreed with the beefing up of current closure measures.
The Home Office said the powers would be applied to owner-occupiers as much as social tenants.
Last resort measure
They will only be used as a last resort, a spokesman said, but encourage perpetrators to accept support while also acting as a deterrent.
Mr Coaker said: "The cost of responding to reports of anti-social behaviour is estimated at around £3.4 billion a year, but this ignores the emotional and social impacts of anti-social behaviour.
"I have heard from people living in areas affected by anti-social behaviour about the devastating impact just one property can have on a whole neighbourhood and I want to ensure that police and local authorities have the powers to deal with it.
"The crack house closure powers have already been successful at providing respite to communities affected by class A drug use, but I am confident that by extending this power, we can tackle other forms of extreme and persistent anti-social behaviour, such as excessive noise, rowdy behaviour, frequent drunken parties and anti-social residents intimidating and threatening their neighbours.
"It is also important that the police and local authorities continue to make full use of the existing tools and powers available to tackle anti-social behaviour - we must all keep up the momentum."
Anti-social behaviour a ‘priority’
Councillor Hazel Harding, of the Local Government Association's Safer Communities board, said anti-social behaviour was a priority for councils.
"These extended powers will help councils crack down on the hard core of persistent offenders," she said.
"However a balance must be struck between short-term punitive measures and long-term prevention and rehabilitation.
"Sanctions must go hand in hand with support designed to encourage individuals to tackle the root causes of their behaviour before it becomes anti-social."
Alan Gordon, vice chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, added: "We welcome any powers to enable police to act positively against any form of anti-social behaviour to improve the lives of residents.
"We will look forward to seeing the new powers on the statute book."
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