How antisocial behaviour is ruining communities

Leeds is a major student city; it is home to five universities and tens of thousands of students. Over the pandemic, antisocial behaviour across large student populated areas have increased.

At the height of the pandemic in July 2020 out of the 699 crimes reported in Headingley, 210 of them were about antisocial behaviour (ASB) which is up from 57 in July 2019. In 2020 Headingley and Hyde Park had a total of 689 ASB crimes and they are just the ones that were reported.

The rise of ASBs in areas with large student populations resulted in a partnership between the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University. The universities teamed up with Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Police and Safer Leeds to tackle this rise of antisocial behaviour which is usually caused by students.  

In a statement the new partnership says they will fund more patrols, “The extra Leeds Antisocial Behaviour Team (LASBT) and police patrols aim to reduce noise and nuisance behaviour in areas where students live.

“Officers will be able to issue legal warnings, which could lead to fines, equipment seizures, house closures and prosecution. An ongoing review will assess the patrols’ effectiveness.

“They will initially cover the busier periods such as weekends and key dates in the student calendar, focusing on areas popular with students including Woodhouse, Hyde Park, Burley and Headingley.”

Although this new partnership introduced by the Universities and the City Council aims to fine and give legal warnings to people committing ASBs, local residents are not satisfied by these proposals and don’t think the cities universities are doing enough to combat the issues being faced by long-term residents.


Headingley is a popular town on the outskirts of Leeds where many students choose to live while studying at University.

Community matters 

Areas like Headingley and Hyde Park have large student populations and it is often forgotten that these areas are home to long term residents, such as key workers, families, and elderly people. Nilesh Chohan is a long-term resident in Headingley, where he lives with his family. 

10 years ago, Nilesh set up the local neighbourhood watch group, he initially set it up for his street with the adjoining street so residents could get to know each other and share frustrations or any queries with one another. Today the neighbourhood watch group covers the whole of Headingley with thousands of people in its Facebook chat and WhatsApp groups. 

“In those days there was no social media. So it was the case of knock on everyone’s doors, also getting pen to paper names, addresses, email addresses and mobile numbers. And from here I was just emailing everybody with having the contact details like a spot number.” – Nilesh Chohan, Neighbourhood watch coordinator. 

Graffiti can be seen on most of the houses, what many people don’t know is that graffiti is considered a form of antisocial behaviour.

Nilesh also set up the group because he felt like not enough was not being done to tackle some of the bad behaviour being caused by residents.

“I think from my perspective I was getting sick of the antisocial behaviour thing at the time, there were a lot of house parties going on at the time, rubbish everywhere and obviously house alarms and car alarms going off and there wasn’t a sense of community here.

“My aim is to try and sort of tarnish the sort of myths and the stereotypical views and unfortunately of students that think that Headingley is a student area when it isn’t. You know there are a lot of families, I’ve lived here for over 30 years odd years, you know, my street now is 80% families and professionals.” 

The Data 

According to a report which was issued by Leeds City Council which provides a look on how the complaints made to the Universities and Colleges Neighbourhood Helpline Partnership and Leeds City Council Antisocial Behaviour team in the academic year of 2019-2020.

Between 1st July 2019 and the 30th June 2020, The Neighbourhood helpline received 423 complaints. The Leeds City Noise services daytime service received 3,198 complaints and requests for services for noise issues across the city. The Leeds City Councils out of hours service received 9,001 requests for assistance. 

Out of the reported complaints to the Neighbourhood helpline team, 97% of cases were noise nuisance and antisocial behaviour, 3% were about waste, recycling and litter.

3% of antisocial behaviour cases reported were about waste, recycling and litter

The report also found that 80% of the cases reported had students involved and included 177 student households. In these cases, 191 disciplinary actions had been taken by the universities.  The Leeds City Council antisocial behaviour team has given out warning letters to 190 student properties, Section 80 noise abatement notices on 276 properties, DJ and noise equipment was seized from three properties and legal action is being pursued with two properties. 

This table shows what actions have been taken by universities in dealing with households that commit antisocial behaviour. 

Help partnership action Number of Households 
Disciplinary stage 1: Warning letters and advice 100
Disciplinary stage 2: Citizenship training, student meetings or police visits 78
Disciplinary stage 3: disciplinary meetings13  
Source: Helpline and Leeds City Council Report 2019/2020

The report also outlines what priorities and actions are being taken for this academic year of 2020-2021. The report on antisocial behaviour for this academic year will not be available till July 1st, 2021.

The Council said they will:

-Significant strengthening of university procedures around Covid-19 breaches report via the Police and Leeds City Council official routes.

– Regular communications and engagement with students to support them to live independently, understand their responsibilities as a Leeds resident and encourage food citizenship behaviour.

– Full engagement in the newly formed North and West Student ASB and Noise Operational Group, which meets monthly, to discuss trends and collaborative actions.

-Engaging with neighbouring communities, to identify and adopt new projects to improve relationships between students and the wider community.

-Working collaboratively to address the community impacts associated with student changeover, including waste, litter and noise nuisance. 

These have been just some of the City council’s aims to combat the ongoing issue of antisocial behaviour for this academic year, but have they been working? 

Ash Road is one of the main streets in Headingley, connecting to other residential roads.

Councils’ response

In 2020, due to the rising cases of antisocial behaviour being reported in the city, Leeds City Council granted themselves additional powers to tackled antisocial behaviour. The council introduced public space protection orders (PSPOS) after concerns mounted among residents after recent trends of parties and loud music being played. 

The PSPOs cover three council wards, including areas with a large student population. Areas that the PSPO are currently coveting are: Headingley and Hyde Park, Weetwood, Little London and Woodhouse. The PSPOs will be in place for 3 years and have been in place since the start of the pandemic.

The PSPOs will cover issues like; noise nuisance, parties, antisocial and criminal behaviour, rubbish, and household waste disposal and drinking alcohol in public spaces.  

John Mckimmings is the team leader of the Leeds anti-social behaviour team covering the west of Leeds, he explains why the introduction of PSPO’s are important and how they work in tackling antisocial behaviour. 

“Each PSPO is tailored towards a certain set of behaviours that have been causing an issue within the community. So, for example, within Headingley and Hyde Park, there are quite a number of issues around on street antisocial behaviour which is perpetrated by groups of people. There’s also issues with people drinking on the street and being rowdy using psychoactive substances such as nitric oxide as an example.”

“Essentially a PSPO is like a set of ground rules for the community to say this is what’s acceptable in the area and what’s not.”

The idea for PSPO’s came off the back of a major incident back in July 2019. Where major street parties were taking place, one of the parties taking place cordoned off the street had had 500 people attending as a result of this the local cinema had to shut because the people inside couldn’t hear the film. 

John Mckimmings has been working within the student community for over ten years and says the current partnership between the council and the city’s universities and colleges have been the strongest they have ever been. 

“The work that I’ve been involved in over the past six, eight months is about taking that further and what has happened recently is that there has been some funding committed by Leeds Beckett and Uni of Leeds, to assist in bringing extra resources into the sort of Leeds two, three, four and six postcodes in particular which are densely populated residential area.” 

The Helpline 

Part of the new partnership between Leeds Beckett, University of Leeds, the council, and the police. Is a helpline primarily run by Leeds Universities and colleges, the helpline allowed residents across the city to report and resolve neighbourhood issues that involve the student population.

In a recent report Headingley was in the top 10 for areas with the most cases of antisocial behaviour.

The helpline runs as a first port of call for any residents who are having trouble with students or want to report antisocial behaviour. University of Leeds is just one of the universities in the city tackling antisocial behaviour. They outlined their complaints process.

“First, we log the complaint, then we do an address search to find out who the students belong to, whether it’s us at the University of Leeds, Beckett or anywhere else. It’s mainly logged by us and Beckett. Just because we have better capacity to do this. We both have separately disciplinary processes, but they generally are the same.

“We follow a warning letter, then we have a special student citizenship training, it’s a full interactive workshop where students go and learn about how their behaviour has affected the communities, what they can do to better themselves and how they can integrate themselves better into the community. Our final stage is disciplinary, but it is all part of the same process.” – University of Leeds.

Universities response 

Local residents do not feel like they are being listened in regard to antisocial behaviour, they feel like the universities are not putting much effort into tackling this issue and feel abandoned by these institutions. In response Leeds Beckett and University of Leeds tells me.

“Leeds Beckett University is an important part of the community of Leeds and strives to ensure that students respect that community and have a positive impact on it.

“The university continues to work closely with local residents. We attend a number of different forums with local residents and councillors where they are able to raise any concerns they may have.”

The University of Leeds says “We are trying. Our procedures do work, and they are proven to work. We are the only university in the UK that runs as much as we do to try and prevent what is going on. We do so much behind the scenes that many people might not be able to see, but what we do does work.”

On tackling antisocial behaviour and the students who are committing this behaviour Leeds Beckett University says:

Leeds Beckett University says they are committed to combatting antisocial behaviour in the community.

 “Students are independent members of their communities and are responsible for their own actions, but they are expected to abide by the university’s Student Code of Conduct. During welcome and induction, we talk to students about being good neighbours and respectful of the people living in their community. 

“We work with Leeds City Council’s Antisocial Behaviour Team and West Yorkshire Police to tackle any antisocial behaviour. There is a dedicated neighbourhood helpline for reporting any issues. We investigate all complaints about student behaviour thoroughly and take action where needed.

“The enhanced patrols of student areas by Leeds City Council’s Antisocial Behaviour Team and Police Community Support Officers, funded by LBU and the University of Leeds, have been effective in reducing the number of events where students are found to be in breach of the law.” 

On Saturday 5th June this ally was the scene of a huge party attended by hundreds of students, police were called at 4am on Sunday 6th June to break the party up.

This year the University of Leeds has introduced a new campaign called ‘Turn it down after ten’ encouraging students to lower the volume after this time. The campaign leaflet encourages students to “shut your windows and doors, move speakers away from walls, tell your neighbours, consider local venues instead, be kind and considerate.”

Nilesh Chohan, along with many residents doesn’t think this new campaign goes far enough. “10 o’clock is not really acceptable because antisocial behaviour or noise nuisances deemed to be any form of noise at any time.”