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Assessing strategies to combat neighbourhood disputes (Anti-social behaviour)

Assessing strategies to combat neighbourhood disputes (Anti-social behaviour) in deprived council estate areas:

A case study on the Isle of Dogs, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Project Issue:

The Crime and Disorder Act, 1998, defines anti-social behaviour as behaving:

“In a manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as (the defendant).”

(Home Office (a) 2003)

As this definition covers a wide range of crimes from prostitution, to having excessively high hedges1, I have decided to specifically focus on neighbour disputes such as noise pollution, violent occurrences, and inconsiderate rubbish dumping and similar neighbour to neighbour disputes.

The central issue of the dissertation will be firstly, the evaluation of how well four researched strategies used to combat anti-social behaviour, all used in four case studies, actually combat and prevent anti-social neighbour disputes.

Secondly, how well those strategies would be placed to deal with neighbour disputes in the Isle of Dogs.

Each strategy that has been researched has a relevant case study that illustrates precisely how that strategy works when deployed in practice.

Each strategy will be assessed in light of the relevant case study.Case studies have been used concerning anti-social neighbour disputes from the Isle of Dogs (East London), Blackburn, Manchester, and Scotland.

The questions that this dissertation will be seeking to find out are:

* What are the most prominent and researched strategies that have been analysed, evaluated, and used by academics and practitioners?

* How useful are each of these strategies, and what are their strength’s and what are their weaknesses?

* To what extent, can each of these strategies be successfully applied to neighbour disputes within the Isle of Dogs, with its own unique situation e.g.diverse ethnic population, and extreme poverty on the doorstep to a wealthy area (Canary Wharf)?

* How high is the level of anti social behaviour within the borough, relative to other London boroughs?

* What is so different or peculiar about the Isle of Dogs?

I will locate this central issue within the wider context of the causes of anti-social behaviour, and take into consideration the various dimensions of neighbour disputes.

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For example I will also consider the age and racial dimensions (Lucey & Reay 1999), and the gender dimensions (Nixon & Hunter, 1999), of anti social behaviour and in particular, neighbour disputes.

METHOD

Summary of the academic research required:

The aim of this project is to research, analyse, and evaluate the various arguments and strategies concerning the best method to combat anti-social behaviour with regards to neighbour disputes.

There are three main strategies or approaches to combat (anti-social) neighbour disputes that my research has discovered:

1. Improving exclusion from certain areas (as advocated by the government). This would include laws making it easier for social landlords to exclude or kick out tenants from social housing at little notice. It could also include restriction orders whereby the accused is not allowed to come within a certain distance of the property or use certain language in the presence, or audio range, of their neighbours as shown in one of the case studies I have researched (Home Office, 2003)2. It could also come in the form of issuing curfew orders3.

2. The second possible response is the ‘Dundee Families project model (Hunter, 2003). This is similar to the 1970’s method of rehabilitation through intensive social work and constant nurturing of offenders, as well as the nurturing of community stakeholders.

3. The third approach is one of the Webster-Stratton programme as advocated by a senior lecturer at the Institute of Psychiatry Stephen Scott4. This is a parent teaching programme, similar to the rehabilitation method above, but involves working strictly with young children (below 10 years of age) and is based in a secure environment talking kids through a video presentation, and group discussions on how they should diffuse problematic situations when encountered upon.

4. The fourth possible approach is the one advocated by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: The new deal for Communities (NDC) approach whereby large sums of money, �800 million, is given to various neighbourhoods throughout the country for the regeneration of their local community. This could involve building a new park, refurbishing the local community hall, or creating a voluntary organisation aimed at cleaning up graffiti.

Through my preliminary research in the form my annotated bibliography, I have discovered that there are widely contrasting views as to the causes of anti-social behaviour, and what strategies work in combating neighbour disputes and those that are a lot more contentious.

Each of these strategies will be examined in my dissertation and I plan to analyse and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each of these strategies.

For each strategy that I have researched I have also researched a corresponding case study that illustrates precisely how that strategy works in practice.

With this in mind, I plan to test each strategy by examining the relevant case study against benchmark factors such as:

* How well would this strategy work in the Isle of Dogs?

* Who are the main beneficiaries, and who are the main losers?

* Is it practical? (e.g. cost effective and workable in today’s political climate)

* Does it pay attention to gender ethnic, or cultural, differences?

* Does it build relations within the community as opposed to exclude sections of the community?

Anti-social behaviour is commonly thought to occur in regions and areas where there is a high density of council houses, high levels of unemployment, and low levels of education opportunities (Home Office (b), 2003).

However this assumption can be challenged, and the main aim of my research is to do precisely that, provide a balanced yet provoking argument providing both sides of the argument to this debate.

It could be argued that only by spending money in the regeneration (e.g. building new community facilities, installing double glazing windows, giving grants for local businesses etc) will people take pride in their communities and their housing and stop the anti-social behaviour (Home Office (d), 2003).

However it could be argued that only by including those that commit anti-social behaviour crimes into society, would there be a decrease in the amount of neighbour disputes [as opposed to excluding them from housing, facilities, benefits etc] (Scott, 2001) & (Hunter, 2003).

Alternatively it could be argued that only by some form exclusion can there be a settlement to anti-social neighbour disputes (Home Office (a), 2001.

Data collection:

I plan to research and investigate:

(a) Various academics think tanks, and the government’s views on how to combat anti-social behaviour.

(b) How these strategies are deployed on the ground by evaluating the case studies that I have selected.

(c) Research previous government funded anti-social behaviour projects and organisations, and evaluate these claims against the previously mentioned benchmarks such as:

* Practicalities such as cost, manpower, etc

* How the people within the community viewed the project

* Does it pay attention to gender ethnic, or cultural, differences?

* Does it build relations within the community as opposed to exclude sections of the community?

My data collection process will rely heavily upon case studies that I have obtained from various academic journals and government reports. Case studies will be taken from the Isle of Dogs in Tower Hamlets (Nixon & Hunter, 1999), from Scotland (Scott and Parkey, 1998), from nation-wide studies (Nixon & Hunter. 2001), and the British Medical Journal (Scott, 2001), amongst others.

I have refined my research sources to be more dependent on case studies and journal articles as opposed to other forms of data collection. This is because this specific dissertation is looking for detailed analyses of projects that have combated anti-social behaviour disputes, as opposed to general information, or the views of certain people.

I have also devised a questionnaire that I will put forward to a representative sample of 50 Isle of Dogs residents. The questionnaire will not form a significant part of my research, as I will be relying heavily on the case studies. However the results of the questionnaires will be used to back up, or refute, the arguments that I will be presenting in my dissertation.

The questions that I will put forward to interviewees are as follows:

Questionnaire.

What type of incidents would you describe as anti-social neighbour disputes?

How big an issue would you rate anti-social neighbour disputes within the Isle of Dogs on a scale of 1 – 10? (1 being not significant and 10 being an extremely big issue)

Do you feel that the Isle of Dogs has an above national average level of anti-social neighbour disputes?

What do you think is the best method to prevent neighbour disputes concerning adults?

* Punish the parents after several warnings

* Punish the parents immediately

* Give the children extensive social worker attention

* Put the child and parent through a psychologically designed training programme on how to behave.

* Or other, or a combination of these. If so please explain…

Have you been involved in an anti-social neighbour dispute within the last five years?

If yes, then ask?

(b) Where you an offender or a ‘recipient’ of the dispute?

I will be asking these questions to the interviewee on a one to one basis and will arrange these interviews by visiting the local Bengali cultural community centre, the local high street, the local caf�, and visiting the local benefits agency (dole office).

In addition to these sources I will also collect data from reliable websites such as:

Regeneration and anti-social behaviour organisations

* http://www.crimereduction.gov.uk

* http://www.socialexclusionunit.gov.uk

* http://www.odpm.gov.uk

* http://www.london.gov.uk

* http://www.lda.gov.uk

* http://www.go-london.gov.uk (Government Office for London)

* http://www.englishpartnerships.co.uk

* http://www.bura.org.uk (British Urban Regeneration Association)

* http://www.cabe.org.uk (Commission for Architecture and Built Environment)

* http://www.civictrust.org.uk

* http://www.coalfields-regen.org.uk (The Coalfields Regeneration Trust)

* http://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk

* http://www.cprregeneration.co.uk

* http://www.dta.org.uk/index2.html (Development Trusts Association)

* http://www.europa.eu.int

* http://www.idea.gov.uk (Improvement and Development Agency)

* http://www.renewal.net

* http://www.urcs-online.co.uk (Urban Regeneration Companies (URC’s))

* http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/323/7306/194?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=1&author1=Stephen+Scott&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1071092635458_16583&stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=1,2,3,4,10

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