Tolerance of others' noise 'dropped during pandemic'

People's tolerance of other people’s noise - from a neighbour doing outdoor DIY jobs to “children being children” - dropped during the coronavirus pandemic, a meeting heard.

Stock image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay
Stock image by Frauke Riether from Pixabay

During the main pandemic period there were 4,890 antisocial behaviour reports to police in Stafford borough. These included 1,915 incidents relating to breaches of Covid regulations.

Stafford Borough Council is involved in work to tackle issues alongside the police.

Helen Marshall, Stafford Borough Council’s corporate partnership officer responsible for dealing with antisocial behaviour, said: “I think it’s fair to say that antisocial behaviour has changed since Covid.

“Generally, people’s tolerance in terms of their neighbours and people in the community is much lower since March 2020. People are working from home a lot more and I think people were absolutely tested in terms of their ability to deal with things that normally we would say are a little bit of noise, it will move on.

“In my previous area I had a lady who phoned me and said ‘I have somebody who’s on the car park at the back of me doing some DIY and the Government have said that they can’t go out’. Actually the Government hadn’t said that.

“Once I peeled back the ‘onion’ and got right to the heart of it, she was having to shield. She had been told she couldn’t go out and then all of a sudden she had got somebody just over the back fence, in the car park doing some DIY, and when we got to the bottom of it he had been furloughed and so ultimately was trying to fill his time doing something constructive.

“Sometimes cases aren’t what they seem – people spending more time at home, children being children or being home-schooled – and therefore seeing and hearing neighbours far more than they ever probably have done. And Covid did have a negative impact on some people’s finances, and therefore was another additional impact on some people’s lives.”

The majority of antisocial behaviour complaints in Stafford borough are made to police, with 2,736 reports received between April 2021 and March 2022. Between April 2020 and March 2021 there were 2,975 and the previous year saw 3,460.

Stafford Borough Council received 108 complaints relating to antisocial behaviour during 2021-22. This was down from 123 the previous year and the same number as during 2019-20.

Ms Marshall told a borough council meeting on Tuesday: “Rowdy and inconsiderate behaviour around Stafford and Stone town centres is mainly reported to the police rather than the council.

"What you will find with the people that contact Stafford Borough Council to report antisocial behaviour is that very often they have reported it somewhere else and they feel, for whatever reason, that they haven’t got the service or the outcome they possibly wanted.”

Residents concerned about antisocial behaviour are encouraged to keep a “diary sheet” recording details of incidents. But they were warned that issues can take some time to resolve – and getting rowdy tenants removed from a rented property was not a simple process.

Councillors who received complaints from residents were urged to encourage them to speak to their neighbours about the issue as soon as possible. Ms Marshall said: “If I had a penny for every time I heard somebody say ‘I can’t speak to the neighbour because they frighten me’, but they’ve never spoken to them.

“If I then contact the neighbour and say we’ve received an antisocial behaviour complaint, all of a sudden it escalates it and they say ‘Why couldn’t they come and talk to me?’ Yes, there will be incidents where they physically can’t for whatever reason but where possible talk to your neighbour.”

Councillors were also advised to remain neutral during neighbour disputes. Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community, said: “It’s a difficult balancing job for the relevant officers as well as the councillor to make sure that the resident who might not have much of a voice still has a voice, but at the same stage it’s not prejudicial to either side.”

Councillor Jill Hood said: “I’ve witnessed many times a resident coming to a councillor and the councillor completely forgetting there are two sides to that story, immediately seizing on the one who is speaking to them without stopping and thinking. I think it’s always really important that we remain neutral, we gather as many facts as we can and we feed it back in the most neutral way.”

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