Antisocial behaviour

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Antisocial behaviour is a category covering a broad spectrum of relatively small crimes that highly influence the security perception of citizens.


drunk and incapable behaviour can be a major detriment to the image of a neighbourhood

Antisocial behaviour is characterised by a lack of consideration of one's behaviour for others. In the context of the Securipedia, it encompasses mainly petty crime. More serious forms of crime are grouped under more specific categories.


Examples of crimes that fall within antisocial behaviour are:

  • Breach of the peace
  • Conduct likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress
  • Affray (extending to both groups and single persons)
  • Violent disorder
  • Drunk and disorderly behaviour
  • Drunk and incapable behaviour
  • Breach of local banning orders
  • Substance misuse such as glue sniffing
  • Drinking alcohol on the streets /in public areas where banned
  • Excessive noise coming from business / alarms / pubs and clubs
  • Begging
  • Prostitution related activity such as curb crawling and loitering
  • Vehicle nuisance such as revving engines, racing, wheel and horn sounding
  • Environmental damage such as littering/dumping
  • Pubs or clubs serving alcohol after hours
  • Hate incidents where abuse involves race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability

Contributing circumstances

Circumstances that attribute to the occurrence of antisocial behaviour, are [1][2]:

  • Low standards of living
  • Low standards of parental discipline
  • Low levels of social cohesion
  • Low levels of social involvement and high community neglect
  • Low amounts or quality of reaction on incidents
  • Presence of drugs and alcohol accessed by young people


The impact of antisocial behaviour is diverse and can be very important factor of the security perception of citizens. However, various forms of antisocial behaviour are usually minor in direct impact (such as costs, deaths, and wounded) but can amount to major indirect impacts (for example, feelings of unsafety, loss of commercial enterprise, and depreciation of immovables).

Social impacts

A known social impact of antisocial behaviour is the increased citizens perception of insecurity and fear of crime. This will usually widen the gap between "perceived" and "actual" security of the area. This could, on a personal level, result in an increased feeling of insecurity of society as a whole, as individuals tend to infer societal security from immediate environmental clues. The clustering of activities associated with the night time economy, such as concentrations of pubs and clubs, may fuel antisocial behaviour and make certain districts ‘no go’ areas at night for people not geared at night time economy.

Economic impact

Antisocial behaviour leads to considerable costs in both a direct (primary) and an indirect (secondary) way[3]. Direct costs of antisocial behaviour come in the form of:

  • Preventive costs in anticipation of antisocial behaviour (e.g. security and insurance costs);
  • Material and immaterial costs as a consequence of antisocial behaviour (e.g. physical damage, repairs, health costs, mental harm); and
  • Responsive costs to antisocial behaviour (e.g. the costs of detection and prevention, prosecution, trial, etc.).

Acts of antisocial behaviour do not just create direct costs, but can also be a major detriment to the image of a neighbourhood, and as a result trigger secondary economic impact on, for example, property value, local businesses, tourism, etc. The perception of security is a relevant issue in case of frequent antisocial behaviour, since signs of disorderly disorder, rubbish and litter, noise, and so on do not help to make people feel safe. In addition, one could consider the opportunity costs of police and other public services (like health care services for victim support).

Security measures such as designing out crime can prevent antisocial behaviour, but not without costs. Unnatural/organised surveillance, for example, is costly and there is always the risk of crime displacement[4]. Natural surveillance and defensible space have less long term costs, but demand investments during the design and realisation phase. With the help of economic tools such as social cost-benefit analysis it is possible to overview the costs and future benefits of security measures in order to decide which types of measures are best suited for a specific urban planning situation.

Mobility impact

Mobility may rather cause antisocial behaviour than that antisocial behaviour has an impact on mobility. As indicated above, vehicle nuisance such as revving engines, racing, wheel and horn sounding is an example of antisocial behaviour. Such behaviour may also invoke more problems such as a fight between (vehicle) drivers or dangerous behaviour on the road when one uses antisocial behaviour against the other (for example when someone doesn't give right of way). People tend to be more aggressive when driving a car then in their daily life.

Also in public transport there are forms of antisocal behaviour, such as jumping queue or pushing, not waiting until the travellers are alighted, blocking a seat or the corridor in the train/bus, or not give up your seat for elderly and disabled. Impact of antisocial behaviour in public transport might be that people feel less comfortable in public transport and therefore will use public transport less often. If due to antisocial behaviour in public transport many people avoid public transportation this may result in increased traffic onroads by private cars and bicycles. This will result in more heavy usage and stress of the infrastructures relating to mobility.

Safety impact

Antisocial behaviour can have considerable impact on safety. Littering of sharp objects (such as broken glass), drunk behaviour, reckless driving and behaviour (like glue sniffing) that can be copied by the young all can have serious safety consequences. Apart from these effects, antisocial behaviour can cause a serious degradation of the safety perception of citizens.


Potential measures that can mitigate the likelihood or impact of antisocial behaviour, are:

  • Surveillance - orient buildings to face and overlook public spaces
  • Intervention force
  • Incentives to regenerate, gentrify and develop areas and locations traditionally prone to antisocial behaviour.
  • Designing out crime - this includes designing balconies, bin stores and flat roofs, etc, such that they are not conducive to unauthorised access. Rear garden walls should, where possible, back onto other private space (and not public space).
  • Active frontage - where possible, avoid blank walls onto public spaces, and maximise window and door openings (with 'overspill' activities, such as outdoor heated seating in front of a café/restaurant, etc).
  • Directing flows of people - well-defined and illuminated navigation of the urban environment.
  • Permeability - consider the correct balance of routes through the urban environment. Cul-de-sacs or 'dead-ends' should be minimised, while excessive permeability can stretch activity levels and footfall, thereby resulting in less vibrancy.
  • Appropriate screening and boundaries - When landscaping the urban realm, consider the heights and thickness of screen planting and walls or fences.
  • Enhancing the diversity and intensity of use (the scale of development and activity types, together with the mix of uses and dwelling types, will directly influence levels of antisocial behaviour. For example, a 'business district' that is virtually deserted in the evening can give rise to antisocial behaviour and loitering, whereas a vibrant mixed-use development with retail, commercial and residential uses is more likely to have levels of activity for longer periods (thus enhancing passive surveillance, etc).
  • Laneways prone to antisocial behaviour should have double yellow lines (i.e. no parking) and have bins removed.

Urban planning should facilitate vibrant, lived-in urban areas and public spaces which are easy to overlook and oversee, as a means of achieving community safety and crime prevention. From a planning perspective, a safe and secure urban realm and urban objects can be achieved through good design practices. By planning for a diversity and intensity of use in urban areas, antisocial behaviour can be mitigated. Integrated planning (land use, transportation network and public realm) should consider monitoring mechanisms and policing systems to enhance public safety.

Footnotes and references

  1. Murphy, Deborah (2006) Anti-social behaviour: underlying causes and policy responses. Masters thesis, National University of Ireland, Galway.
  2. Andrew Millie Anti-Social Behaviour, Behavioural Expectations and an Urban Aesthetic Br J Criminol (2008) 48(3): 379-394 first published on-line February 22, 2008 doi:10.1093/bjc/azm076
  3. Primary economic impact (or direct effects) are generally defined as the initial, immediate economic output generated by a specific cause (in this case a criminal offence). Secondary economic impact (or indirect effects) are generated each time a subsequent transaction is made, for example, the impact of crime on the real estate value in the neighbourhood.
  4. The relocation of crime from one place, time, target, offence, or tactic to another as a result of some crime prevention initiative (Guerette (2009). Analyzing Crime Displacement and Diffusion. Tool Guide No. 10.