Social media reports of anti-social behaviour frighten people from coming to Boston, council leader warns

Coun Spencer toured the town streets with police officers and other councillors recently
Coun Spencer toured the town streets with police officers and other councillors recently

Street drinking in Boston has sparked racism and misinformation on social media, exacerbated by an inadequate reporting system, the district council leader has warned.

Councillors Aaron Spencer, leader of Boston Borough Council, and Paul Skinner, regulatory portfolio holder, hit out at social media commenters who “frighten people from coming into the town” by posting pictures of anti-social behaviour such as public urination.

Councillors are due to hold an inquiry into Boston’s “night-time economy” – which will include street-drinking.

They said, however, official figures have dropped significantly.

They added the inquiry needs to look into all external pressures such as housing and deprivation.

“At the moment everyone takes a picture which they put on social media and it perpetuates a problem because the same person could post a picture from six-months ago today, and anyone can go and pose a picture and claim it as one thing and not the other,” said Councillor Spencer.

“Those [Facebook] pages are actually quite racist. People who comment on those pages are really negative and quite harmful and anti-this-that-and-the-other.”

He said the social media groups were “dangerous, because you get an echo chamber of people who think one thing to be reality which is perpetuated by someone in public office and it can actually cause civil unrest, it could cause major issues.”

However, leaders acknowledged issues with the 101 anti-social-behavior reporting service.

Councillor Neil Hastie, who runs the Boston Street Drinkers and ASB Incidents Facebook page, said incidents had not decreased due to any additional actions in recent weeks.

He, instead, praised social media for its ease of use in enabling reporting.

He said: “People are still ringing 101 and having to argue for an incident number which keeps the numbers down.

“The alternative is online but going through all the pages and typing it out takes time and people don’t want to do that.

“But the beauty of Facebook is you take a photo, you put a date, time where it is and that’s it. You know exactly what’s happened. That is a lot easier and a lot quicker for people.”

An application has previously been proposed by both councillors which would be similar to the Fly-tipping or Fix My Street reporting services – enabling residents to take a photo, geotag their location and submit it straight to the council.

Councillors on both sides of the debate say street drinking and the anti-social behaviour is just part of the problem.

Councillor Hastie said he already wanted to change the name of the inquiry because “night-time economy” suggested only looking at the 8pm-8am time period.

“It’s a 24hr problem so I want to change it to “The Economy of Boston relating to Anti-Social Behaviour and Street-Drinking” because that way we’ll be able to do more and look more in-depth and come up with a proper working solution. A quick fix won’t do,” he said.

Councillor Hastie wants changes to planning and licensing at a national and local level – calling for government to allow licensing bans to be placed on properties rather than people.