Swearing, speeding and disruptive kids annoy the public a lot more than young people's clothing. Nicola Porter reports
Hoodies do not bother people as much as swearing in public, speeding cars and disruptive kids at school, some of the first UK research into anti-social behaviour reveals. A poll conducted in Newport, south Wales, shows the type of clothes young people wear, including hooded jackets, is of low concern.
But 68 per cent of those polled did see anti-social behaviour in general as a major problem, Dr Jo Brayford, from the University of Wales, Newport, called for more research into public perceptions of anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) following the findings. She was one of the speakers at a conference on anti-social behaviour and substance misuse held by the Newport Centre for Criminal and Community Justice.
Delegates also heard from leading social policy researcher Stephen Moore, who said speeding cars were more likely to get residents complaining.
Latest Home Office figures reveal the number of ASBOs in England and Wales has leapt to an all-time high of 7,356.
However, most people questioned in the Welsh poll would like to see them used as a last resort (70 per cent) - and not punitively.
So-called wacky ASBOs, including a woman who was given an order for wearing skimpy underwear when answering the door, have not helped public perceptions of the orders, according to Dr Brayford. In-depth questionnaires were prepared for her piece of research by academics at Swansea university.
Students from the Newport campus asked a range of professional people, students, the unemployed, and housewives and husbands aged 16 to 62, for their responses.
Eighty-four questionnaires were returned. Anti-social behaviour was regarded as the most serious problem and a major issue (80 per cent) alongside youth crime (80 per cent). Swearing in public (79 per cent) and young people being disruptive in schools (78 per cent) topped the list of most worrying forms of anti-social behaviour.
However, kids hanging around street corners misbehaving were not a major concern for those questioned.
And "hoodies" also did not bother respondents - with just 14 per cent saying they were a concern.
Most of those questioned (80 per cent) also thought young people should be more respectful of adults. But 82 per cent also believed young people would behave better if adults were better role models.
ASBOs were introduced from April 1999 as part of the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act. They are civil orders that can be made on children over 10 years and adults who are seen to be causing harassment, alarm or distress in the community.
It is a criminal offence for adults or children to breach an ASBO.
The Assembly government, under social justice and regeneration minister Edwina Hart, is presently reviewing the way ASBOs are handed out in Wales.
Stephen Moore, a reader in social policy at Anglia Ruskin university in Cambridge, has found similar findings in his research.
Litter, cars parked illegally, fireworks and vandalism rated higher than "kids hanging around" in his research - as did noisy neighbours. He told delegates: "Kids hanging around street corners are part of life."
However, one delegate who did not want to named, said ASBOs were given as a last resort.
He said: "It takes months for an ASBO to come to court and we try to liaise and help the indiviudual as much as possible beforehand.
"Many of the cases you read about in newspapers have much more history than the public are informed of."