UCL News


Britain's anti-social behaviour problem

16 May 2006

Great Britain has the biggest problem with anti-social behaviour in western Europe, according to research undertaken by UCL.

The UCL Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science was commissioned by security firm ADT to survey opinion across Europe on how people categorised anti-social behaviour, and how it affected them.

Respondents from Great Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain all agreed that anti-social behaviour was a growing problem in their home countries, although how this manifested itself varied from country to country. However, all respondents - Britons included - believed Britain to have the worst problem. Of those Britons questioned, 68 per cent believed alcohol was a key contributing factor to the problem, a higher percentage than any other participating country.

Professor Gloria Laycock, director of the institute said: "This research is a wake-up call. We know anti-social behaviour is a major issue in Great Britain - and the rest of Europe clearly agrees. The study shows people believe that it is fuelled by the excessive consumption of alcohol. Increasing our access to alcohol cannot be the answer and it is time that the UK government addressed perceptions of this problem."

The study also revealed that 79 per cent of Britons believed that a breakdown of discipline in homes and schools was a major influencing factor in anti-social behaviour. Nearly half those questioned thought stricter sentencing would help reduce the problem and three quarters said young people aged 14 to 25 were most associated with anti-social behaviour.

Perhaps one of the more worrying trends highlighted by the survey is people's reluctance to challenge vandals. Only 30 per cent of Britons surveyed said they would challenge a group of 14-year-old boys vandalising a bus stop. Across all the countries, 48 per cent said they would not challenge the youths, with Britons coming out the least confident and Germany the most confident.

Commenting on the importance of the research Professor Laycock said: "These perceptions are important because they can guide government policy in a way that satisfies people's anxieties without necessarily tackling the root of a problem. As well as providing a measure of public perceptions, this unique research allows for some fascinating cross-country comparisons which illustrate common views but also some interesting differences."

To read the research results in full, use the link at the bottom of this article.