Sunday, 14 August 2011

'Shopping with violence'

As you know, Britain has recently made world-headlines due to night-time rioting erupting first in the N. London district of Tottenham and then spreading throughout the land. When junior officers shot dead a 29 year old man, Mark Duggan, and then senior officers foolishly lied to the public about the exact circumstances, what started out as an angry (but lawful) community protest against the London Metropolitan police, quickly degenerated into a nationwide orgy of copy-cat law-breaking; including assault, vandalism, looting, arson, murder, etc. Indeed, for two or three days, many British streets began to look like war zones. Widespread calls were made for extreme measures to be introduced. Fortunately, these were ignored. To date, approximately 2000 persons (mostly unemployed males between the ages of 15 and 19) have been arrested. The overwhelming majority of these offenders were not caught in the act. They were subsequently identified after closed circuit TV images were released and appeals made to the public.
What evidently seems to have happened, is that the UK media (always in search of sensational pictures) thoughtlessly advertised the fact that disorganized gangs of hooded-youths had come onto N. London streets to provoke, and fight with, the police. When the police (who were already outnumbered, and under orders not to escalate the violence) appeared to be present only as powerless spectators, more opportunist rioters arrived and began to set fire to cars and to smash their way into commercial premises; stealing valuable, portable consumer items and burning what could not be moved. Certain members of the public, who tried to intervene, were brutally assaulted. Within a few days, numerous gangs of young hooligans were duplicating, and/or attempting to duplicate, this group-sociopathic behaviour in various British towns and cities, apparently believing that they were perfectly entitled to run riot and thieve and that they would not be caught and held to account. When interviewed by journalists (in the cold light of day), a few brain-dead kids (brandishing stolen bottles of alcohol and claiming to be rioters) attempted to justify what was happening by parroting that it was all the fault of the rich, the government, the police,etc. However, as soon as it became clear that the UK police, supported by the overwhelming majority of the UK public, would intervene forcibly and on a scale commensurate with the phenomenon the country was facing, and that the tiny, reckless minority responsible would, in fact, be swiftly traced and held to account, the wave of rioting has subsided.
Various insightful commentators have described this phenomenon as 'being not so much rioting, as shopping with violence.'
The immediate reaction of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, was to return from his holiday in N. Italy and recall parliament. Both senior UK police officers and government Ministers have now claimed that their decisions saved the day.  

Ironically, David Cameron, has apparently decided to employ Bill Bratton (described by the press as a 'US super cop') to 'advise the British government on dealing with gangs' . Not surprisingly, senior UK police officers are not impressed However, I would say that the last person to consult in the entire world about any form of crime, would be a senior American law enforcement agent; for the briefest examination of history proves that all so-called 'US super cops' (no matter what their recent track-record) can be nothing more than exponents of the ignoble art of slamming the stable door (decades) after the horse bolted.

The USA probably leads the world when it comes to crime in general, and violent crime in particular. Unfortunately, the 'home of the brave and the land of the free' certainly does not lead the world when it comes to tackling crime or the causes of crime. Remember, in 1919, the members of the US government (apparently believing that they were going to reduce all forms of crime) passed a short-sighted federal law which, on paper, made the production and sale of 'intoxicating beverages' criminal offences. In reality, for 13 years, the US government made virtually no attempt to enforce what was an effectively-unenforceable law, and handed the vastly-profitable alcohol business (and a huge source of legal tax-revenue) over to the sociopathic leaders of relatively small-time criminal gangs - quickly making the most-violent of these greedy, young hoodlums into tax-free multi-millionaire racketeers. Today, the world is still living with the catastrophic results of US-based, major organised crime; for another gigantic illegal business also traces its roots to the 'Prohibition' era - realizing that alcohol would soon be legalized again, many American racketeers invested their ill-gotten gains in the production and sale of narcotics. 
The one thing which the American experience should have taught us, is that if you pass a law, then fail to enforce it, you not only effectively-authorise the very crime which you sought to prohibit, but you also offer an open-invitation for anyone, so-inclined, to commit all manner of other crimes.
David Brear (copyright 2011) 

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