Written by Dr Vicky Heap – Reader in Criminology in the Department of Law and Criminology, Fellow of the Sheffield Institute for Policy Studies at Sheffield Hallam University.
This blog is based on an article published in People, Place and Policy entitled: Anti-Social behaviour victims’ experiences of activating the ‘Community Trigger’ case review
The Community Trigger case review is supposed to act as a safety-net. Victims of anti-social behaviour (ASB) can activate the Community Trigger if they have not received a satisfactory response to their complaints, if the number of complaints meet a locally-defined threshold within a specified period of time. If the case meets these requirements, a formal multi-agency case review meeting is held with key stakeholders such as the police and local authority, with the purpose of creating an action plan to address the ASB in question. However, new research has shown that some victims experiences of utilising the Community Trigger have been far from satisfactory and embarking on the policy process resulted in additional suffering.
There is a misconception that ASB is ‘low-level’ nuisance behaviour. In fact, it is targeted, persistent and often escalating in nature and frequency. It includes behaviours such as harassment, threats, name calling, deliberate damage and noise nuisance that is usually experienced within a residential setting. Thus, ASB can have a devastating impact on daily life and it can have serious long-term effects on victims’ physical and mental health. The research undertaken here examined ten victims’ in-depth accounts of sustained ASB victimisation, the lack of action initially undertaken by the authorities and their experiences of activating the Community Trigger case review policy.
Due to the lack of previous action taken in respect of their complaints, participants had high expectations of what the Community Trigger could achieve. Many thought it would finally resolve their case and give them an opportunity to have their voice heard. In reality, this did not happen. Communication surrounding the case review process was found to be problematic. Once the Community Trigger had been activated, many participants waited weeks or even months for a response. It was common for victims to have to chase the authorities for updates about their case and they often experienced being passed back and forth between the police and local authority. This was compounded by the ASB continuing during this time and the participants not knowing whether the new incidents would contribute towards their case review. For some, after waiting weeks, they were told that their case did not meet the threshold for a review.
The sole purpose of the Community Trigger is to resolve cases where ASB has been inadequately addressed and the vast majority of participants suggested it had not met its aim. Eight out of ten participants’ ASB remained ongoing and had escalated. Where action had been taken, respite was often only for a short period before the ASB began again. All participants were frustrated and disappointed with the process, which fostered a lack of trust towards the authorities.
This novel research uncovers some of the challenges faced by victims activating the Community Trigger. It highlights how the participants suffered when the case review process was neither communicated nor executed effectively. The outcome of this poor practice is that victims can experience additional harm at the hands of the authorities who are supposed to be protecting them. The experiences of victims undertaking a case review would be improved by a communications strategy that manages expectations and prioritises support. Plus, there should be a mechanism in place for victims to get additional assistance if they are not satisfied with the Community Trigger.
Ultimately, the authorities should respond sufficiently to initial reports of ASB and the Community Trigger should not have to exist. Since this research was undertaken, statutory Home Office Guidance has been updated in an effort to better support victims activating the Community Trigger. Nevertheless, more research is required to better understand victims’ experiences and needs in order to prioritise a stronger preventive response to ASB.