Trafalgar Square
Getty Images file
The London Council recently took a dramatic move to issue what is effectively a curfew order prohibiting teens from certain parts of London. At famous landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, those 15 or under will not be allowed to visit after 9 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult.
By Reporter
NBC News
updated 8/3/2004 3:16:26 PM ET 2004-08-03T19:16:26

Chocolate — an aphrodisiac, token of love, a naughty treat, and now another tool in Britain’s battle with unruly, anti-social behavior.

Late-night revelers in the coastal town of Bournemouth in southeast England have recently found themselves receiving bags of chocolate treats by local licensees as they pile out of the clubs, in a creative effort to prevent alcohol-related violence.

The chocolate is just one of several new initiatives employed by Bournemouth police to curb violence. Other initiatives have included the use of mounted police and “minimum drink pricing” — meaning that the drink prices that liquor licensees are allowed to charge are set by the government and cannot be reduced, for example in a “happy hour” promotion that lures people in for cheaper drinks.

“The horses (mounted police) were really good, you could see people’s attention was taken up with the horses rather than on picking fights with each other,” commented Sarah, 19, from Christchurch, “They should be used more often.”

Anti-Social Behavior Act
The measures employed by Bournemouth are just a few of several anti-social behavior initiatives being tried throughout the country as Britain pursues an active policy of tackling rowdy anti-social behavior.

The British government passed the Anti-Social Behavior Act toward the end of last year, which has led to a phased introduction of sweeping powers and initiatives, the majority of which have only started to come into effect over the last few months.

Alcohol-related disorder has gone under close scrutiny with the introduction of the act, including the launch in July of the National Alcohol Misuse Enforcement Campaign. The campaign is part of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s National Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, which aims to reduce alcohol-related harm. Such alcohol-related harm is costing Britain approximately $35 billion a year through crime, disorder, injuries, illness and loss of productivity at work. With a worrying rise in binge drinking throughout the country, many a night out is seen ending in violence as drunken party-goers all pour out onto the streets at closing time. 

Charges for anti-social behavior
The introduction of Anti-Social Behavior Orders is a key part of the governments’ anti-social behavior strategy. Almost 2,500 charges have been made since the inception of the orders, which can be issued to anyone and are intended to prevent people from carrying out specific prohibited acts or entering designated areas.

While many people see the orders as an over-the-top reaction to what is a "natural" problem in any society, those that have direct experience of the preventive power of the order have a different story to tell.

Visitors to Bath’s Royal Victoria Park were relieved when a ban was finally issued to Ruell White, a 10-year-old boy who had terrorized the park for three months. White is one of the youngest people in Britain to receive an order. He was charged with a laundry list of offenses including: throwing metal spikes, terrorizing children in Royal Victoria Park and kicking a security guard in the shin at the local Southgate shopping center.

A spokesmen for the park council commented on the BBC Web site that "visitors would now be able to enjoy the play area and tranquillity of the park without intimidation."

Curfew on parts of London
White's case is part of a growing trend trying to curb the behavior of pre-16-year-olds.

The London Council recently took a dramatic move to issue what is effectively a curfew order prohibiting teenagers from certain parts of London. 

At famous landmarks such as Trafalgar Square, those that are 15 or under will not be allowed to visit after 9 p.m. unless accompanied by an adult.

As British children are faced with a curfew in their capital city, some fear that the country risks slipping into an almost Orwellian state.

“We have nowhere to go, and if we hang out with our friends, people call the police cause they think we are going to do stuff,” said Michael, 14. His complaint is a common one among young teenagers, who often find themselves victims of suspicion when they gather in groups of more than three.

While money has been put toward the Anti-Social Behavior Act, little of it seems to have found its way into providing viable alternative activities for the young. Instead they are left with little better to do other than gather together outside, or stay in and watch TV.

Is Britain really so badly behaved that it needs specific legislation to tackle anti-social behavior that isn’t covered by current law? It would seem the problem of alcohol-related anti-social behavior is more apparent here than in other countries and some steps are needed to reduce the problem.

The act is useful in the ability it gives law enforcers to take action against young people who are constant nuisances to those around them. So it may be a small step toward a nanny state, but for now it would seem to be doing some good.

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