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Anti-social behaviour

10 May, 2007


Banksy's work

(Image – London graffiti artist Banksy)

A very topical area in sociology is the issue of anti-social behaviour, in England many measures have been introduced to limit youth committing acts deemed harmful to the individual and society as a whole. The introduction of the ‘Anti-Social Behaviour Order‘ (ASBO) punishment system, has in some cases created a sub-culture which youth adapt to become a ‘badge of honour’. Though it may deter some individuals from committing crime, the root causes of such behaviour are not remedied in this case.

Last summer I was working for my local council as part of a University work-placement, when working with the Press Office I observed many issues of anti-social behaviour in the news. Whilst promoting the government’s summer activities programme for young people, I was given an opportunity to meet with those involved with providing youth services. They asked me to write a short piece about young people’s attitudes towards anti-social behaviour in the community, so I discussed this issue with attendants of the recreational events. After just attending a Baha’i course on Animator Training which is intended to train individuals to facilitate Junior Youth groups, I was particularly eager to meet with these young people to see how they viewed the situation. The following is what i submitted to the council:

Anti-social behaviour – Through the eyes of young people…

In my opinion today’s generation of young people are bright individuals that are eager to learn and creatively express themselves. Within Hillingdon the unity in diversity that the young people share is all around us, far from a social concept more so a reality when living in London.

With this great potential of uniqueness in youngsters, is a core responsibility to support and serve the well being of the youth in the community. For it seems due to social circumstances and more deeper personal factors, that many search for a sense of identity, a role model, or more significantly moral guidance at a key age in their lives. Especially in times where it can be unclear who to turn to for guidance in any given circumstance. Crimes committed by young people therefore seem to be an outlet to deal with problems, or even a way to deal with their own rites of passage.

The council’s role in tackling anti-social behaviour is that of a supporting one; providing advice and facilities to young people to deter them from such problems. For wherever or whenever young people socialise in ways that are harmful to themselves and others, one cannot ignore the bigger picture, which asks what can we do to help?

My University course at Brunel has brought me to the Council for a work placement and I recently went along to ‘Parks R Cool’, which is just one of the many services Hillingdon Council provides for young people.

When spending time with the young people at the various locations around the borough, I wanted to get a sense of anti-social behaviour through their eyes. The fusion of youth at ‘Parks R Cool’ was great, and in capturing their thoughts I worked around the local social concerns where each event was held.

According to the safer neighbourhood teams I talked to the main issues around young people in the borough were graffiti, underage drinking, motorbikes on open spaces, littering and making too much noise. I decided to focus on graffiti because of the large cost of removal, but also other topics where covered in the discussions.

One of the two events I visited was Hillingdon Court Drive, after chatting with the young people there the following was raised; Tagging and graffiti if used to vandalise was seen as something wrong done just out of boredom, or a way to vent some other social concern. Graffiti was explained as very territorial and the buzz of doing something illegal acts as a force boosting the ego.

Some young people I talked to

(Image – Some of the young people interviewed)

The main idea from youngsters for a solution to tackle vandalism was a proposed outdoor area with some sports facilities such as basketball courts, and an area for people to do legal graffiti, which would be monitored by CCTV for safety. They also thought an illegal-graffiti educational website would raise some interest, if it were designed and themed around the street mannerisms of the graffiti culture incorporating slang.

The second ‘Parks R Cool’ event I visited was in the north of the borough, at Harefield village green. The young people I spoke to who live in the village felt that they had to go into Uxbridge for any substantial recreational activities. This seems to reflect on the consensus among the young people that anti-social behaviour is not favourable, but it seems an easy path to stumble on when not given much alternative at an age where you will experiment.

What was a main wish was to get a regular youth club in the area with classes and sports facilities, while the efforts of ‘Parks R Cool’ were welcomed it seems they wanted more localised regular events. For them this would deter vandals and loitering in public parks at hours, which disturb local residents.

When consulting with the young people at both events each one seemed very aware of where to draw the line between fun and anti-social actions, though perhaps other initiatives are needed to make them feel part of the wider community. An example could be a project for some youth who are involved in some community service, in which they are given responsibility and an environment, which will reinforce values at the same time.

Furthermore it could be useful in considering a key stage from around 11-14, as those who are that age are neither children nor teenagers though they have the intellectual capacity to comprehend more social structures then given credit for. When looking at these ‘junior youth’ what can be seen; is that if they are put into groups for children in leisure or extra-curricular activities, or see a greater exclusion in more ‘teen-based’ events, they can feel left out and somewhat annoyed.

Bearing in mind that studies have shown opinions formed at an early age reflect on a persons character later in life, the less nurturing an individual is given in the community could be a factor in why anti-social behaviour then occurs later in adolescence. The local council and community groups play a vital role in prevention of such problems, which is ultimately an area of work which is working for the betterment of the whole of society.



4 Comments leave one →
  1. Martin Carter permalink
    2 April, 2008 07:44

    Hi Afshin,

    I found your words incredibly thought provoking and would love to be able to quote some of them in some local discussions which I will be having in Slough. Would you have any objection?

  2. 20 May, 2007 20:36

    Thanks Afshin for addressing this important issue. The young people in the U.S. are facing similar challenges all of which spring from a profound lack of true spirituality and moral groundedness in their lives.

  3. 10 May, 2007 21:15

    Yes indeed! Thank you for the comment, the youth of today really need to be nutured away from distractions which can overshadow their potential. This quote really highlights the situation for me:

    “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.”

    -Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 259

  4. 10 May, 2007 20:44

    These are pure jewels that are increasingly being surrounded by circumstances, situations and environments that don’t allow their brilliance to sparkle. Deep within they have a desire to glow and shine like a city on a hill but somehow the system galvanizes them with restless minds and bodies, pumped up with disempowering notions of who they are. I am a Character Coach for Winners Walk Tall and I see it every day. Yesterday, I went to a local middle school and was speaking to them about the most basic of principles: How to shake hands. Some of the kids couldn’t get around to doing it well even after many role plays. They are used to referring to each other by some other names and “properness” has escaped their vocabulary. But then, as I got ready to leave, they ran to me and shook my hand with a firm grip, gave great eye contact and asked me to come again. There is hope!

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