Interview with Mark Reynolds, Acton's Anti-Social Behaviour Caseworker
Mark Reynolds gives the impression that he wouldn't put up with any nonsense. This straight-talking but sympathetic Yorkshireman has been Anti Social Behaviour Case Worker for Acton only since June, but we've already heard his name from a couple of different sources as someone who gets things done.
There are four ASB officers covering the whole of Ealing and Mark has been allocated to our patch. Three other officers cover Ealing, Southall and Greenford/Northolt/Perivale. Mark covers all private landlords, tenants, residences and businesses. Ealing Homes manage properties on behalf of the council. Dominion, Catalyst, Notting Hill are the other largest social housing providers in the area, but there are many other smaller Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) within the borough.
Mark says: "I'm really keen to get out there and meet people and help whenever I can. I plan to hold surgeries in St Mary's Church Hall once a month on the first Thursday of the month and would like to encourage anyone who wants to discuss anti-social behaviour problems to come to those, or to contact me directly at the Council. The next surgery will be on Thursday, December 6th."
Mark would also be interested to go to any local meetings, which will bring him in touch with Acton residents. "Anyone who is organising neighbourhood watch meetings or any meetings where members of the community get together should let me know and I will do my best to be there." He is regularly walking around the various Acton wards with police. "I will happily walk around an area with residents if they want me to. There's plenty of enforcement which can be done if only people are helped to find the proper channels."
He continues: "I am also happy to answer questions if people want to post them on the ActonW3.com Forum."
Amongst other things he is attending a meeting this month organised by PCSO’s, especially for the Polish community to ascertain the objectives and the points of view of the Polish community in the area. At a Community event in Acton Park several weeks ago, it was estimated that around 500 Poles came along to meet and talk about their problems with representatives from various agencies.
“Problems are more easily solved through working in a close partnership with other agencies. So we try to help and want to be involved.”
Mark tells me a frequent ASB problem in Acton is noisy private residents and tenants.
"The situation is fairly static at the moment with a steady number of reports of problems."
He advises anyone with a problem household in their neighbourhood to contact him.
“If there seem to be a large number of people living at the property I can check whether the house is registered for multiple use. If it is registered as housing of multiple occupancy (HMO) they will have address of the owner of the property, otherwise it's very simple to check.” If anyone wants to find out these details for themselves, it is very easy, via the land registry website and costs very little.
Mark continues: “It can be relatively easy to deal with Anti Social Behaviour caused by people living in illegal HMO’s. The Council can use legalisation to deal with landlords whose property is occupied by large numbers of people without being registered and the Courts can issue large fines.
Also, when registering their property as an HMO, there is a clause that private landlords sign to say, “the licence holder must take reasonable and practicable steps to prevent or reduce antisocial behaviour by persons occupying or visiting the house”. We of course encourage a co-operative approach with the landlord."
Mark also advises people experiencing problems to get to know their neighbours. "Sorting out problems is much easier when we have several different complaints from neighbouring households."
" The only way we can sort out problems is if we get information on a regular basis from people - we need as much evidence from them as possible. As with all Anti Social Behaviour it's very important to keep a diary of events."
Recently, Mark dealt with squatters living above derelict shops on Uxbridge Road and in garages behind them. "We've now boarded the garages up. You have to wait until the property is unoccupied and then secure the building.
Depending on the problem sometimes it easier for other sections within the council to deal with problems and Mark will sometimes pass things on to his colleagues in other council departments and vice versa; however often they do work together to solve problems.
Recently, the Police and Ealing Council worked together to deal with the unsolicited car window cleaners at Savoy Circus. “This is one situation where we have made use of a Dispersal Zone; Unfortunately, the North side of the crossroads falls in Hammersmith and Fulham, so that’s something the other Council might want to look at.”
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders need to be used in the right way.
With problem kids, ASBO’s are usually not the right way of dealing with them. It's usually best to get them out of a problem situation. We encourage referral to the Anti Social Behaviour Action Group and to the Youth Inclusion and Support Panel so that their behaviour can be monitored and diversionary activities offered. It's better to work with problem children and families than get them kicked out where they become someone else's problem."
Though he says "I don't like using ASBO’s unless it's absolutely necessary, but at the end of the day sometimes an ASBO is the only option if the intervention work and Partnership working between the many agencies involved has failed."
As Mark puts it: "In this job, sometimes you've got to be grandma's favourite grandson and sometimes you've got to be a bouncer." Acton's noisy neighbours should be quaking in their boots.
November 9, 2007