Headlines: January 18th, 2005

Four areas in the north east of England are to pilot a dedicated telephone line that local people can use to report anti-social behaviour. The service will be rolled out in 21 other areas around the country within the next six weeks as part of a Home Office drive to increase community participation in tackling yobbish behaviour.The It’s Your Call line will be available in specially appointed ‘TOGETHER’ action areas where people are being asked to report the problems in their neighbourhoods ranging from graffiti to abandoned cars and nuisance neighbours.

There will be posters and telephone boxes promoting the actionline number – 0845 605 2222 – in the participating areas where local residents will also be sent flyers publicising the scheme. After an individual complaint has been dealt with feedback cards detailing what action has been taken will be delivered to houses in the area.

The scheme has been launched in the north east and will operate first in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside. Home Office minister Hazel Blears said the government was making progress in tackling anti-social behaviour but engaging local people was vital to create strong communities and to tackle thugs who could destroy people’s quality of life and ruin neighbourhoods.

The 25 areas where the line will operate had made a clear commitment to step up their response to anti-social behaviour, the minister said, and she wanted people in those areas to come forward to make a call that could make a difference, and help make their communities better places in which to live.

Councillor Dame Sally Powell, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Safer Communities Board, said local authorities were committed to addressing people’s concerns. She said that more often than not anti-social behaviour was effectively tackled with the co-operation and participation of the general public and she hoped the new scheme would make it easier for people to work with their local council to crack down on problems in an area.

The scheme will be launched in Middlesbrough next week and in Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury, Great Yarmouth, Harlow, Ispwich, Leicester, Northampton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Southampton and Southend in mid-Feburary. The line will open in Blackburn, Burnley, Oldham, Oxford, Salford, Sheffield and Slough on February 28th.