Heap, Victoria (2010) Understanding public perceptions of anti-social behaviour: problems and policy responses. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Anti-social behaviour (ASB) has emerged as a major community safety concern over the past decade. Reducing the number of incidents of ASB and lessening the impact these have upon the publics’ quality of life have become key components of criminal justice policy. The British Crime Survey has provided evidence of the types of ASB being experienced and quantified the proportion of people perceiving high levels of ASB in their local area. This research suggests strong links between high levels of deprivation and perceiving high levels of ASB. Attempts have also been made to determine what factors drive these perceptions, in order to produce evidence-based ASB reduction policies.

This thesis builds upon existing research into public perceptions of ASB by exploring public perceptions in-depth, using a mixed methods strategy. A three phase, explanatory sequential design was employed. Phase one quantified public perceptions in selected hardpressed ACORN areas. These findings were utilised to inform the topics for further qualitative elaboration in phase two. The third phase qualitatively explored how practitioners address public perceptions of ASB. Inferences were generated from all three phases of data collection, providing a holistic, coherent and contextualised discussion of potential policy implications of the findings.

The findings presented within this thesis uncover new attitudinal based factors that are statistically and independently associated with public perceptions of ASB. In addition, primary and secondary drivers of public perceptions were qualitatively identified in the hardpressed areas studied. New insight has also been provided into the methods practitioners use to address public perceptions, particularly into the difficulties associated with measuring perceptions and the reciprocal relationship that exists between practitioners and the public.

The inferences generated suggest that public perceptions of ASB are complex, with the factors influencing perceptions often interconnected. This thesis calls for greater strategic clarification regarding the role perceptions play in ASB policy, in order for accurate, locally
applicable perception measurement to be achieved and a reduction in perceived high levels of ASB to be obtained.

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