Tuesday, 8 July 2008

POLICING THE PROBLEM

Two things struck me this week. First thing was that New York used to be one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the world, not any more though! We were there last autumn and it felt very safe whereas London feels very unsafe. So what happened? I’ll tell you what happened - zero tolerance and good policing is what happened. In NY there is a very, very high police presence. They rule the streets with serious hardware and aren’t going to take prisoners. But, strangely enough, that doesn’t feel threatening in fact it feels safe. In London you are lucky to see a policeman, the nutters rule the streets and it’s all very scary.

The second thing that struck me this week is that there was a time when we had zero tolerance here too. But we did it “our way”, very British but very effective. Now instead of good old-fashioned PC Plod who wasn’t afraid to clip a kid around the ears and send him packing if he stepped out of line we have no-go areas where police don’t patrol in case it incites rioting! OK, times move on, but for goodness sake we should still be able to rule by law not by violence and intimidation.

I have often had conversations with OG about the rowdiness of our local market town where you see mobs of drunken youths, spitting and fighting on a Saturday night. And when you read the local paper it is always the same few scumbags committing the crimes. These characters are habitual offenders, well known to the police and yet they still walk the streets. Why?

Well, halleluiah, guess what? Roger Baker the Chief Constable of Essex thinks the same. At his first press conference three years ago he warned, “If you are planning on committing crime in Essex, bring a toothbrush because you won’t be going home”.

Where other forces are closing 24-hour stations, he is opening more. Instead of simply handing out a crime number he insistes that anyone reporting a crime is visited. In his first year he moved 220 desk-bound officers back on to the beat and has pledged an extra 600 within 5 years. And he is doing this by making savings, it won’t cost the tax payer a penny.

And this is the real genius of the man. In January he launched Operation Leopard on the Three-Four Estate in Vange, near Basildon. The development of Thirties terraces ad Sixties flats was plagued by vandalism, open drug use and marauding youths intimidating the residents (much like our local market town).

The strategy was simple but ingenious. First, police asked residents who was causing the problems and identified a hard core of only 15 troublemakers.

A team of three special surveillance officers with neighbourhood and Community Support Officers then followed these yobs everywhere. They knocked on their doors in the morning to inform them they would be watched that day and stalked them for 16 hours a day for three weeks. They also videoed them. At first the targeted troublemakers thought it a bit of a joke. Then they complained it was intrusive. In the end, they were worn down.

Before Operation Leopard, more than 20 crimes a week were being committed in the Vange area with the Three-Four a hotspot. The police team carried out 60 spot-checks and arrested four people for offences including cocaine possession and assaulting a police officer.
Crime levels went from a spike to zero.

Six months on they are still “incredible low”. One lady on the estate said “it was pure bliss, it was miserable living here before. You were constantly looking out of the window to see if your car was being vandalised. There were youngsters hanging around in groups causing a nuisance. They would think it was really funny to spit at you. There was graffiti and vandalism, kids openly smoking joints or skulking about with their hoods up so you can’t see their faces. It was very intimidating. I wouldn’t walk my dog in the evening by myself and I would think twice about it in the day. But for the whole week that there was this police presence it was wonderful.

Operation Leopard is now being developed for trouble spots throughout the entire country. The problem is that you just know the PC / Health & Safety loony brigade will strongly object, down will descend the fog of lunacy and instead of embracing and expanding something that really works it will be scaled down until it has become totally impotent.
OK, you could wonder if the 15 trouble-makers simply moved the problem to the next town. I’m sure they did, but if we keep chasing them down they will either stop or go to prison. We are not talking about big numbers here. And I would hazard a guess that the numbers are quite small in every community. Lets hunt the buggers down and win back the streets.

23 comments:

Mr. Nighttime said...

Ann,

As a retired NYC paramedic, I can tell you firsthand that NYC now, compared to back in the 70's, 80's, and the first part of the 90's was a hellish place to be. Yes, the police presence is huge, even more so since 9/11, but you make a good point in that it is not intrusive.

I have been to London twice, in 1989 and then in 1999. I don't know how things truly are today, but from what I have read, and from friends that live in the UK tend to tell me, it is not the city it once was.

What a shame.

aims said...

Here Here! Let's take back the night and the morning and afternoon and evening too!

All those little bastards can rot in hell as far as I'm concerned. I don't care if they are somebodies children.....they should have been better parents! OH grrrrrrrrrrrr.....now you've gone and got me started.

Retiredandcrazy said...

It is a shame about London Mr Nighttime, but if NY can do it so can we and we have a new Mayor so we live in hopes! By the way I love your city. What a sassy place it is!

Stinking Billy said...

A really good, positive blog giving hope to the people and a nudge to other police authorities. Why can't they all do what Essex is doing? Good subject and well reported.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

I have an award for you at my place.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hey aims, calm down!

Retiredandcrazy said...

I know Billie, if it works it should be rolled out across the country, but you know the "bleeding liberals" will object and the whole thing will slowly grind to a halt.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Thank you so much MOB and congratulations to you for your award too.

Wayne Ashford said...

I saw the news last night which told of a new iniative in redruth in Cornwall where they would be imposing a curfew at 9pm - I wonder how well that will work.

I know that i used to have to be home at 9pm when I was a teenager and if I was late there was hell to pay from my parents - maybe there's the problem...

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

What a fantastic and positive way to deal with our current problems. I wish that could be tried all over the country. M :-)

Maggie May said...

Here here! I heartily agree with everything you've said.
It is sickening the way things are going & we must be the laughing stock of the nations! Its about time something was done about these violent yobs who spoil everything for the majority. Good post!

Sandi McBride said...

Now that makes me sad...I love London so...the years we spent in England I count as among the happiest in my life...I loved the people, the history, the sheer beauty of the country, the friendliness of everyone we met, including the Constables and Bobbies...part of the reason I went into Police work was because of the Constable who lived on the back side of our house (the street over) when we lived in Beaconsfield...I guess I will always love London...
Sandi

Mae said...

It sad to think the wonderful places on earth are so full violence.

Jay said...

Gosh, that makes me want to move to Essex, and I hate Essex! I spent my youth growing up there.

As to London (where I was born), what was it? Nineteen, dead in stabbing incidents so far this year, according to The Guardian. And goodness knows how many more young men injured. My SIL lives there with some of her brood, and I'm just thankful that they're all grown up and settled now, and not likely to be out on the streets trying to 'have fun'.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hi Wayne,I used to have to be in by 9.00 until I got married! Sometime I would try to pretend that my watch was wrong, but my Dad never believed me and read me the riot act anyway. You may have something there.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Maggie, I know that in Switzerland they think that we are totally excentric and in France they don't spend any time thinking about us! We are non-entities. How the mighty have fallen.

Retiredandcrazy said...

I love London too Sandi, that is what makes it so sad. I feel like raging at times. In fact, I do rage quite a lot about it!

Retiredandcrazy said...

I agree Mae. what is going on?

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hi Jay. Today I heard of a good family man with two young children who was attacked late one evening on his way home from a musical evening at a mutual friends home in Cambridge.

Four youths parted as he approached them on his bike and one of the hit him with something. They then stamped on his head and left him for dead. He has had to have reconstructive surgery on his face.

The next day a friend went to look for his glasses which were still at the "scene of the crime". Obviously the police had not been near there!

Someone commented "those four yobs are always hanging about on that common at night". Oh, Chief of Constable of Essex, please pass on your message to other forces. Quick!

The Dotterel said...

I like the idea that the CC of Essex can do afford all this by making savings. Here in Lincs the Police precept was increased by 79% - the largest in the country! (It's just been capped.)

Crystal Jigsaw said...

This country is going to the dogs. We could get onto the subject of the crazy idea of building more prisons but will that really stop the problems? I very much doubt it.

CJ xx

Retiredandcrazy said...

Dotterel, when we first came to live in Lincs 25 years ago it was a safe, quiet backwater. Now its riven with drug & alcohol abuse and violence. My grandson said that our local market town has the 3rd highest incidence of drug abuse in the country after London & Manchester. And when do we ever see the police? Hardly ever. But having said that the other morning I was in fact surprised to see a "community policeman" driving a police mini-bus stop in town. What was he doing? Giving out a parking ticket! Nearby a group of drunks were getting really ugly with each other and he was just ignoring them.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Hi Crystal. I have ranted about this before I know, but lets put them all into prison for the rest of their lives and feed them heroin until it's coming out of their ears. That would give the rest of us a break.

Only kidding, but it makes me so mad that no-one has the will to solve this problem.