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From: The Socialist issue 364, 2 October 2004: Out Of Touch!

Search site for keywords: ASBOs - Bristol - Police - Capitalism

Anti-social behaviour:

New Powers Won't Work

A FEW weeks ago, the Bristol Evening Post comments column commended the new powers of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) in evicting drug dealers and their families from their homes.

Bob Marshfield, Bristol

Although they were referring solely to drug dealing on estates, these comments would have struck a chord with many ordinary working people who suffer other forms of anti-social behaviour, as well as drug dealing. In fact, one in three people say anti-social behaviour is a problem for them.

Since the powers of ASBOs came in to force in 1999, the government has been looking at ways of increasing their effectiveness.

In March 2003 the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill was introduced, extending the powers that can be obtained under ASBOs. There has been an increase in the use of ASBOs as a way of dealing with anti-social behaviour by the police and local authorities. So far 2,455 ASBOs have been granted nationally.

Under ASBOs people can be told who they can meet and where they are allowed to go. Breaking the rule is an offence which people can be arrested for.

As a resident I am concerned about loutish behaviour, drug dealing, drunkenness, noise etc but are ASBOs the right way forward?

Extra powers

THE ACT means that ASBOs can be sought through the courts to evict people not only from a local authority house but also from housing association and privately rented property.

But what is going to happen to individuals and their families who are evicted from their homes? Will the children be eventually taken in to care? Will the evicted tenants have to go on the street and then be hounded every day by the police? In other words is the problem going to move on to another area or made worse?

Extra powers can also give the police the right to disperse a group of individuals with immediate effect for a period of 24 hours and this group could comprise just two people. If they returned before 24 hours they could receive a prison sentence of three months.

This is an attack on our right to assembly. It could be used at any time to hinder our rights to peaceful protest and to demonstrate.

Social deprivation

The police will also gain extra powers to deal with minors in an unauthorised area. In effect, they will be able to operate a blanket curfew from 9.00pm. Any minor out of doors with out an adult present after 9.00pm will subject to removal by the police.

These orders attack our young people's rights to mix socially and freely in groups. It is only a small number that are a problem but all are tarred with the same brush.

On the spot fines do not solve the problem. They will end up making criminals of parents for the children's actions. And what will happen to the parents who cannot afford these fines?

Young people have a right to live in a society, which offers them a decent future. They have the right to a decent education system. There should be plenty of activity centres where youth can meet up. Support should be made available for families finding it hard to cope and for drug rehabilitation.

ASBOs don't address the real underlining problems that exist in society. They are cheap propaganda shots that give the impression that the government is serious about improving workers' lives.

But it's capitalism that blights our present and futures. Crime and anti-social behaviour are linked to poverty and social deprivation. Only by getting rid of the system that allows these to fester will society develop in a genuinely inclusive way. Our job is to give capitalism the red card. Or better still, an ASBO!


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