Those working to tackle anti-social behaviour in Hastings have said they would like to see better education about the issue within schools and the local community.
At a crime summit hosted by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, a panel of experts discussed ways to address the problem and some of the inspiring work already being done to help reduce crime in the area.
One of the strongest suggestions to come from the event, held at Sussex Coast College on Wednesday evening (September 27), was to improve the education of anti-social behaviour, what it involves and its impacts, in a bid to deter potential offenders at an early stage.
Huda Caglayan, chairman of Hastings Youth Council, earned the first applause of the night when she said: “All the work the organisations do is amazing and they do obviously help young people but something I feel very passionately about is education on what anti-social behaviour actually is from a young age.
“There are people out there who don’t really understand what anti-social behaviour is, or what drugs can do to your body, or what alcohol can do to your body and what circumstances you can get yourselves in to.”
She added: “I think if we tackle things at a very, very young age appropriately, things will be easier in the future to tackle and for people to understand, because if you raise children knowing instead of them just being flung into this world, they’ll be able to figure out, ‘oh, I might be in a bad situation’, whereas a lot of the time, they don’t really realise until it’s too late.”
She called for interactive presentations within schools from experts who can engage with young people in a fun and interesting yet ‘incredibly educational’ way.
This was echoed by Ben Wyatt of the Youth Offending Team, who expressed an interest in developing communications with the victims of anti-social behaviour to raise awareness of the impact it has on them on their communities. He said: “Challenging the young people with those victim statements or meeting the victim face-to-face is far more powerful than me sitting there saying what impact they’ve had – it brings it home and makes it more real.”
It was also mentioned how more should be done to occupy young people in the area, such as youth clubs, to keep them off the streets in the evenings.
However, while much of the conversation was about young people, the authorities wanted to make it clear they did not solely blame teenagers for anti-social behaviour in the area.
Katy Bourne added: “We heard tonight how Sussex Police pro-actively work not to criminalise young people, to keep them out of the Criminal Justice System and certainly the Howard League for Penal Reform research shows that if young people get caught up in the Criminal Justice System, they’re far more likely to stay in it and then re-offend, and so the cycle continues.
“I quoted statistics that show in the last six years, Sussex Police has reduced putting young people in to the Criminal Justice System by over 60 per cent, which is phenomenally good. And everybody agreed – we took a vote on it – keeping young people under the age of 18 out of the Criminal Justice System really matters to people here tonight.
“Partners were listening and saying how they work hard to stop young people from getting in to crime in the first place, that early prevention work. There was a lot of discussion around education, what can be done in schools, as well as out of schools, and what the voluntary sector are doing outside the school area to keep young people safe, but to educate them as well to keep them out of harm and out of the Criminal Justice System.”