Fear of anti-social behaviour by young people is outstripping reality, police believe.

A Government plan to tackle the problem came in for criticism this week after three-quarters of people surveyed said they believed anti-social behaviour by youths had got worse or stayed the same since it was launched.

Police in Brighton and Hove said actual reports of problems have fallen significantly in recent years and people believe the risk of crime is greater than it actually is.

The Government has poured money into its Youth Crime Action Plan since 2008 to try to tackle problem families, giving Brighton and Hove and 68 other areas £350,000 each.

About 400 families across Sussex were targeted for intensive support, with contracts between families and social workers and the threat of eviction if they failed to respond.

This week A survey published by the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) yesterday showed 48% of people in the targeted areas thought youth crime had stayed the same and 27% thought it had got worse over 2009.

More than three-quarters also said they did not believe extra out-of-school activities had been put on for young people - one of the cornerstones of the plan.

In Brighton and Hove reports of youth disorder fell from 4,938 between 2006 and 2007 to 3815 between 2008 and 2009.

Police said that is thanks to co-operation between officers, council departments and other agencies and the structure put in place under the Government’s plan.

The scheme means youths are not simply pushed through the system but are assessed to find out if they or their parents need support at home to help address their behaviour.

A separate survey by police in Brighton and Hove showed 27% of people thought there was a problem with youths hanging around in their area - the 16th lowest out of 352 areas in the country.

Chief Inspector Laurence Taylor of Sussex Police said: “All the figures I receive suggest a downward tendency.

“We have not eliminated anti-social behaviour. There is always work to be done and I am confident that it is being reduced.

“What we need to do is get that message out so people recognise that.

“While the DCSF figures might suggest that there are still issues, and I’m not saying there aren’t problems, locally in Brighton I think perceptions have changed and we are tackling anti-social behaviour effectively.”