Community safety enforcement

Action taken against antisocial behaviour or environmental crime

Harlow Council's goal is to protect victims, witnesses and the community. We will attempt to educate the perpetrator in understanding the consequences of their behaviour and we will try to make the perpetrator change their behaviour.

Tools and powers have been made available to Harlow Council, Essex Police, Registered Social Landlords, Housing Trusts, Youth Offending Team and British Transport Police to deal with antisocial behaviour and environmental crime.

The Community Safety Team work in partnership with other agencies including Essex Police, Essex County Fire and Rescue Services, Social Services and Education who co-ordinate a strategic approach to a problem. Community Safety Officers and Rangers have the authority to use the full range of tools and powers available some of those powers include:

The Community Safety Team can also enforce:

Campaigns used to tackle antisocial behaviour in Harlow include:

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts and Good Neighbour Contracts

Acceptable Behaviour Contracts (ABC) and Good Neighbour Contracts (GNC) have proved to be a very useful tool for controlling low-level antisocial behaviour (ASB) issues. ABC’s or GNC’s will in many cases, prevent an emerging problem developing into a major drain of resources. An ABC or GNC is a voluntary agreement between one or more local agencies and an individual outlining what the perpetrator should do or should not do. ABC’s are often used with children and young people, but in some instances can be used for adults, if the contract drawn up is regarding the perpetrators conduct in their home the contract may be called a Good Neighbour Contract. The defining principle of ABC’s and GNC’s is that they are voluntary and involve an acknowledgement by the perpetrator that his/her behaviour is having a negative impact on the community, it is an agreement to stop that behaviour, the agencies offer support in parallel to the contract to address the underlying causes of the behaviour, for example attendance at a youth project.

An ABC and a GNC normally lasts for a period of six months but this period can be extended, during the six month period a Police Officer, Police Community Support Officer, Housing Officer or ASB Caseworker will visit the perpetrator on at least three occasions.

Who can make a referral?

Any agency such as Essex Police, Social Care, Education, and Social Landlords can use their discretion to make a referral to one of the Council’s Community Officers within the Enforcement Section who will facilitate the process.

Who is responsible for monitoring breaches?

All agencies are responsible for monitoring breaches of ABC’s and GNC’s, any breaches will be brought to the attention of the Council’s Community Safety Officers within the Enforcement Section.

What may happen if the contract is breached?

The perpetrator could be re-interviewed by the appropriate agencies and spoken to regarding breach of the Contract. In some cases it may be necessary to apply to the Courts for an Anti-social Behaviour Order, antisocial behaviour Injunction and/or if the perpetrator is living in Social Housing the landlord may take proceedings for possession of the home.

Antisocial behaviour Orders

Antisocial behaviour Orders (ASBOs) are civil orders that protect the public from behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, harassment, alarm or distress, an order contains conditions prohibiting the offender aged 10 or over from carrying out specific acts or from entering defined areas and are effective for a minimum of two years. The orders are not criminal sanctions. ASBOs are community-based orders that involve local people not only in the collection of evidence to support the application but also for the purpose of helping to enforce breaches. By their nature they encourage local communities to become actively involved in reporting crime and disorder and to contribute actively to build and protecting the community.

Who can make an application for and order?

Local Authorities (Enforcement, Housing and Environmental Health), the Police, British Transport Police, Registered Social Landlords and Registered Providers (Housing Association) can make an application for an antisocial behaviour order. In some cases these agencies may need to consult with the Police and the Local Authority prior to an application being made to the courts.

Who is responsible for monitoring breaches?

A breach of an order is a criminal offence, which is arrestable, and recordable, information on breaches can be received from any source, including, neighbours and other members of the public. Breaches can be reported to any agency including the police, Local Authority, Social Care, Education and Social Landlords.

What may happen if the order is breached?

The perpetrator may be arrested for breach of an ASBO as a breach of an Order is a criminal offence. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Order has been breached. Where a person is convicted for a breach the courts can impose stiff penalties of up to five years imprisonment.

Closure Orders: Premises Associated with Persistent Disorder or Nuisance

Section 118 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, introduced new powers for the courts to close, on a temporary basis, premises associated with significant and persistent disorder or persistent serious nuisance. Schedule 20 inserts a new Part 1A into the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 (c.38) that makes provision about the issue of Closure Notices and the making of Closure Orders in respect of premises associated with persistent disorder or nuisance. This tool is similar in nature to the pre-existing crack house closure power. The intention of this provision is to empower police officers and local authorities to take action against premises that cause significant and persistent disorder or persistent serious nuisance to a community.

Premises Closure Orders are tenure neutral. These powers are designed to allow police forces and local authorities, working in consultation with each other, to take rapid and effective action against activity that causes great harm to communities. It is an order of last resort and should only be pursued after the full range of appropriate antisocial behaviour interventions have been tried without success. Used with the proper safeguards and with judicial oversight, this measure will send out a powerful message that communities should not, and will not, be expected to tolerate significant and persistent antisocial behaviour. Importantly, it will also provide a further opportunity to engage perpetrators and encourage and cajole them to accept offers of support.

The action to close a property should not be taken by one agency in isolation. Police and local authorities are required to consult each other before any decision is taken. Persistent serious Anti-social Behaviour has a negative impact on community life and regeneration, so it is essential that support interventions are used with enforcement measures, and that the problem is tackled holistically rather than by simply shifting the burden elsewhere. These powers present a real opportunity for multi-agency partners to act swiftly and decisively to control these problems.

This guidance relates to the provisions contained in Part 1A of the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 as amended by Part 8, Section 118, Schedule 20 (Premises Closure Orders) of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, and is designed to help those who are responsible for the exercise of these powers to:

  • use the powers effectively and efficiently;
  • see the use of the powers in the broader context of tackling antisocial behaviour; and
  • understand the implications of the powers as they relate to affected persons and the communities in which they occur.

This guidance is designed principally for:

  • the courts;
  • the police; and
  • local authorities.

A person discharging a function to which this guidance relates must have regard to it in discharging the function.

This guidance is issued by the Home Office to assist with the use of these powers and has been written by the Anti-social Behaviour and Crime Prevention Unit in collaboration with the Department of Communities and Local Government, the Association of Police Officers and the Ministry of Justice.

Community Mediation

Similar to other communities in the UK, Harlow has lots of people who are affected by neighbour disputes, along with various ways of dealing with them. Sometimes people may simply try to ignore a situation or forget about it. This can be very difficult and a disagreement can quickly become a dispute, which can increase feelings of anger and frustration. Mediation is a way of dealing with disputes that help people to reach an agreement that everybody is satisfied with. Two partial, independent mediators facilitate the mediation process, ensuring that both parties have equal opportunities to speak, listen and negotiate along side making sure any outcome is fair and realistic.

Mediation allows neighbours to communicate their feelings, facts and possible ideas in a safe, neutral, structured environment. Anything discussed within mediation is completely confidential, which encourages open communication. Mediation does not judge or blame people; neither does it make decisions for people. Mediation tries to facilitate the parties involved to work towards an agreement for the future and reach their own solution.

Principles of Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary process and in engaging by parties entirely out of their willingness. For mediation to work best, all parties concerned must wish to use the process, without coercion, and may withdraw at any stage of process without the fear of penalty. Mediators do not take sides, decide who is right or wrong or give legal advice. Mediators help people to make life better for everyone involved without resorting to legal action. Harlow Council use an independent organisation run by local people and are not connected to the Council, the Police or any other organisation.

Who can make a referral for mediation?

Harlow Council and Essex Police can make a referral for mediation.

Crack House Closures

An application can be made to the Magistrates Court to close down premises for up to three months where Class A drugs are being used or dealt and there is serious nuisance or disorder associated with the premises. The first step in this process would be for a senior Police Officer to issue a closure notice on the premises, the closure notice alerts those using the property, those resident, the owner and any others with an interest who can be identified, of the intention to apply to the court for a Closure Order. The police must then apply to the Magistrates Court within 48 hours for a Closure Order, once issued by the court, the order can last for up to three months and can be extended for a further three months. During this time, entering or remaining in the property is an offence and the property will be sealed.

There is a legal duty for the police and the local authority to consult prior to the service of a Closure Notice. The police are the only agency who have the powers to make an application to the Magistrates Court for a Closure Order. The landlord of the premises should ensure that possession proceedings where the premises are residential should be begun as soon as possible after a Closure Order is made.

Dispersal Orders

Dispersal powers provide the police with a powerful tool to tackle intimidation and antisocial behaviour by groups of people. The powers are designed to reduce antisocial behaviour problems in defined areas. They do not prevent people entering an area, but allow the police to take action to disperse a group of two or more people if they believe that their presence or behaviour has resulted, or is likely to result, in a member of the public being harassed, intimidated, alarmed or distressed. Individuals can be directed to leave the locality and may be excluded from the area for up to 24 hours.

The legislation requires the police and the Council to act in partnership to tackle the problems of groups who cause concern to the public. Police and Police Community Support Officers also have the power in the designated area to take a child home after 9pm if they are not under the control of an adult.

A police superintendent (with the agreement of the Council) can designate a defined area as a dispersal area for up to a period of six months; Dispersal Orders should be used where there has been a persistent antisocial behaviour problem in a public space and where groups gather and intimidate and harass the public. Dispersals are not targeted at any age group but are there to protect the well-being of the community.

What may happen if someone refuses to follow a police officers direction to disperse?

A refusal to follow a Police Officer’s direction to disperse is a summary offence. The penalty on conviction for this offence is a fine not exceeding £2,500 or a maximum of three months imprisonment.

Injunctions antisocial behaviour

An Injunction is a Court Order to stop individuals from carrying out antisocial behaviour. It will have clear conditions explaining what people are not able to do and how long it is valid for, normally for six or 12 months. They can include exclusion zones to keep people away from designated areas and can be served without notice in some cases. A referral would be taken from any agency and a multi-agency discussion would take place to consider if an injunction would be the best option to resolve the antisocial behaviour. All agencies are responsible for monitoring the household’s behaviour.

What may happen if there are further ASB problems?

An Injunction can contain a number of restrictions, which will be dependent on the reason for obtaining the Injunction and what is considered to be reasonable by the court. A breach of an Injunction will be considered as contempt of court and would be dealt with on this basis. As such, a court hearing would be applied for and the result of this could be that the individual who has breached the injunction can receive a fine or be imprisoned. If the injunction has been applied for due to threats of violence, it can contain a power of arrest meaning that the individual who has the injunction against them can be arrested upon breaching this. Should this happen, they would appear in front of a judge within 24 hours of the arrest for the judge to decide whether they remain on custody or have bail conditions imposed whilst awaiting a further hearing date for the breach.

Parenting Contracts

A Parenting Contract is a voluntary agreement entered into by the parent or parents of children who have been found to have committed acts of Anti-social Behaviour in and around their community. Parenting Contracts, which work alongside Acceptable Behaviour Contracts, are designed to incorporate the parents in any rehabilitation and prevention of such offences occurring again.

As a Parenting Contract is a voluntary agreement the parents cannot be forced to enter into such an agreement. However if their desire is such that they wish their child or children to cease their Anti-Social activities then most parents actively enter into a Parenting Contract alongside their children who will be governed informally by the rules of an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC).

This Acceptable Behaviour Contract - as well as the Parenting Contract - is drawn up by several agencies including the Youth Offending Team (YOT), Harlow Council and Essex County Council.

What is the purpose of a Parenting Contract?
Fundamentally the basis for issuing a Parenting Contract is to try and find a common ground upon which the aforementioned agencies and parents can work in order to reduce their child's chances of re-offending. With this in mind a parent may enter into the agreement on the understanding that he or she - or both parents depending on the circumstances - may attend counselling sessions or Youth Offending Team meetings to discuss their child's behaviour.
Also included in the Parenting Contract can be a clause which stipulates that the parent must ensure their child or children is regularly attending school. Truancy forms a large part of the problem when it comes to Anti-Social Behaviour as it is during the time when children should be in school that they commit offences of an anti-social nature and are often observed in areas where they should not be.
A Parenting Contract may also include - as it works in conjunction with an Acceptable Behaviour Contract (ABC) - a clause that states the parents of a child or children involved in such behaviour must be under what amounts to a curfew. If a child is found to be at a specific location when he or she is not supposed to be there - and is also found to be there past a designated time - then not only will the children be held to account but so too will the parents.
Overall the premise of a Parenting Contract is to ensure that a child or children under an Acceptable Behaviour Contract is supervised correctly and that the parents are actively upholding their end of the agreement which is to ensure that their children cannot and do not commit any further acts of anti-social behaviour.

Parenting Contracts and ASBOs

You should be aware that an Acceptable Behaviour Contract is a voluntary agreement entered into by your child or children and the Youth Offending Team, the police and Harlow Council. If this agreement is broken and continually so then these authorities can move to the next level - which is to take the matter before a magistrate with a view to issuing an Anti-social Behaviour Order (ASBO). With this in mind it is your responsibility as a parent - particularly if you have entered into a Parenting Contract - to ensure where possible that your children uphold their end of the Acceptable Behaviour Contract and remain out of trouble for the duration of the agreement and beyond.

Fixed Penalty Notice

Fixed Penalty Notices can be used as a means for dealing with various environmental crimes. Officers within the Community Safety Team are authorised to issue fixed penalty notices to the public and most are accredited under the Essex Police Accreditation Scheme.

Fixed Penalty Notices can be issued for a numbers of offences.

Offence Fine Maximum penalty
Depositing litter  £80  £2,500
Failure to comply with a street litter control notice  £100  £2,500
Failure to comply with a litter clearing notice  £100  £2,500
Failure to produce waste documents  £300  £5,000 or, on indictment, an unlimited fine
Failure to produce authority to transport waste  £300  £5,000
Unauthorised distribution of free printed matter  £80  £2,500
Failure to comply with a waste receptacles notice  £100  £1,000
Failure to remove dog waste  £50  £1,000
Abandoned Vehicle  £200  £2,500
Nuisance Parking  £100  £2,500
Fly-posting and Graffiti  £80  £2,500

The list of ;Fixed Penalty Notices (pdf) contains the above offences and the legislation under which it is issued.

How is a Fixed Penalty Notice issued?

You will be approached by an authorised officer of Harlow Council who will introduce themselves and show you their identification. They will then explain to you the offence that they have witnessed you committing and issue you with a Fixed Penalty Notice with instructions on how to pay the fine. The fine must be paid in full within 14 days of the fixed penalty notice being issued. To pay the fine or if you have any questions regarding Fixed Penalty Notices then please contact an Advisor at Contact Harlow.

What happens if I do not pay the fine?

Failure to pay the fixed penalty notice fine will result in the case being submitted to Harlow Council's legal department for prosecution.