It’s just about the worst thing in the world not to feel at home in your own neighbourhood, and this is exactly what can happen when you experience harassment near your home. This post will explore the problem of neighbourhood harassment – what it is, and what steps you can and should take to put a stop to it.
WHAT IS HARASSMENT?
Harassment can consist of anything from explicit threats of violence or damage to your property, to using insulting words or gestures, to just creating a general atmosphere of menace. If anyone is actively causing you to feel uncomfortable in your neighbourhood in any way, it could fall under the umbrella of harassment. For more detailed information surrounding harassment and the laws governing it take a look at www.cps.gov.uk
WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
If you feel that your safety is being threatened, you should go to the police immediately. They should treat your complaint seriously and should be able to provide helpful solutions.
It is also a good idea to keep a written record of incidents and interactions with the parties concerned. That way, when you go to the police and/or take legal action, you can show that this has been a pattern of behaviour, and not just an isolated incident. The more information you give to the authorities about problematic behaviour, the more able they will be to put a stop to it.
In addition to the police, you can and should inform the landlord, the local authority and/or the housing association if you live in a rented property. If there is harassment or other antisocial activity going on in your neighbourhood, it is likely that you are not the first person to report it.
With this level of reporting, you can begin work on solutions to the problems as a community. Things like better locks and codes, neighbourhood watch rotations, and installation of camera systems, alarms and lighting could all be discussed as community fixes to the problem, which can sometimes be even more effective than police intervention.
WHEN CAN YOU TAKE CIVIL COURT ACTION ABOUT HARASSMENT?
Harassment is both a criminal offence and a civil action under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 which means that someone can be prosecuted in the criminal courts if they harass you. If you’ve been the victim of harassment, you can also take action in the civil courts against the person harassing you though you need to make your claim within six years of when the harassment happened.
The court can make an order or injunction that the person harassing you must stop their behaviour. If they don’t stop harassing you after the court has made an injunction against them, it's a criminal offence and they can be prosecuted in the criminal courts.
You can also ask the court for compensation if you’ve suffered financial or emotional loss - for example, if the harassment has made you feel very anxious or distressed. If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
REPORT ILLEGAL ACTIVITY TO THE POLICE
If you see anything illegal happening in your neighbourhood, regardless of whether you have been the specific object of harassment, it is absolutely within your rights (and even your duties) to report it to the police.
Obviously, those breaking the law are going to go to great lengths to conceal what they are doing. So if you even suspect something like drug offences or prostitution happening near you, it's a good idea to start keeping a written record of your observations. Write down where and when you saw the suspicious activity happening, so you have as much information as possible when reporting to the police.
One common concern when reporting illegal activity relates to the possibility of being identified. While this anxiety is understandable, you should not let it prevent you from taking action. The police will always guarantee that any information you give them is treated confidentially.
The most important thing when experiencing harassment or other threatening activity in your neighbourhood is not to lose hope. Something can always be done about it. It’s up to you to take the first step.