Monday, 10 July 2006

Don't knock the police - it really is not their fault

I have been to our meeting, and quite interesting it was too. (You may have read the post below first! Sorry they are both long. Please stick with it. It makes sense in the end!))

What came out? Well the poor police sergeant took a bit of heat. He was regaled (well, harangued really) with story after story of incidents of a) inability to report crime to a human being (always the centralised voice mail) b) the lack of response when crime was successfully reported and c) the complete failure to do anything meaningful or effective to those known to be the culprits.

The Sergeant asked for us to help to provide evidence, to stand up and be counted, but then confirmed that photographing or videoing anti social behaviour or crime was of no help. He asks the village to provide a statement and "expose" themselves (metaphorically) to the culprits but then admits that nothing ever happens. The evidence won't stand up, the CPS won't touch it, and the ASBO kids remain free to wreek their revenge in the full knowledge that the cycle will repeat itself, whatever they do.

Buckden is full of people who would dearly love to provide evidence and deal with these people effectively. They know exactly who the ten or so young people are in the village who most need to be dealt with severely and effectively. They know exactly where and when things happen and in a great many cases they know exactly who is doing it.

But when they try to inform the police in real time via the "centralised answering service" (for which they must have the obligatory "targets for customer service") nobody answers; if they do get through nobody comes; and if they do come they prove to be impotent without the "right sort of evidence" to bring a prosecution. In such circumstances, it is easy to see why people give up.

Ultimately, the system, over which our lowly Sergeant has absolutely no control, does not want to pursue this sort of ASB or low level crime and harrassment. Under the current rules of evidence, it is simply too hard to achieve a conviction, so the resources afforded to trying are frankly wasted. They are forced to police by "targets" and "customer satisfaction levels". But we are not customers. We are citizens, just like them.

Unable to prosecute and punish, they try instead to tackle matters by deterrence and engagement. It is pretty much all that is left to them, but the vandalism, harrassment and verbal abuse is left unchecked. These people are mobile enough to avoid deterrence and are the last people to engage. As I eventually said, engagement is my problem, as Councillor. We can engage all we like, however, but only if he delivers the firmer policing that must accompany it.

What is missing is that level of policing that used to exist just underneath the legal radar. Real policing that used to know communities inside out and knew exactly who to go to when something happened. Moreover it was robust policing that knew exactly how far to go to make sure that their discipline was effective in keeping a tight lid on ASB. It made the odd mistake but on the whole it steered generations of kids through the joys of adolescence with a firm hand, with the support of the community (including their parents) but without criminalising them.

This policing existed right up until the mid Nineties, when a certain person deliberately commissioned a report to undermine the a national institution that would best reflect the dawn of a new style of government.

Macpherson delivered and the police were destroyed in a single day. Every community has paid the price ever since.

I was wrong, in my post below, to look look for a problem spanning twenty years and I was wrong to search among the youth and their parents. The problem lies in the government and their attitude, the Human Rights Act that protects the perpetrators of crime at the expense of the general public and a police force who are made to serve us with both arms and legs tied behind their backs.

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