BBC London has published a report of young people’s experience of crime, showing that they don’t feel safe on the streets and don’t feel the police will always help them.
It’s not surprising after a year of shocking deaths of teenagers in knife and gun incidents have hit the headlines; including the death of Martin Dinnegan in Upper Holloway. Another Islington crime in the news was the murder of Richard Whelan on a 43 bus by a man who was throwing chips at Mr Whelan’s girlfriend.
It’s a dilemma whether to challenge antisocial behaviour or not. If you don’t are you complicit? If you do, are you putting yourself at unnecessary risk?
Our estate looks out onto a small park, which we are lucky to have. I’ve always been opposite bricks and mortar before. The park attracts dog walkers in early morning, the odd family in the day – and groups of youths from late afternoon to late at night. They are noisy and drop litter, they smoke, sometimes they race bikes, and the bikes aren’t always theirs. We’ve had residents meetings with the police; some of us have tried talking to the youths; they are a pain but not normally a threat. Last night was different.
We have a small front patch with two gates – one to our front door, one to the bin store shared with the two upstairs flats. We were watching TV, when there was a terrible clang from the front garden. Richard rushed to the kitchen and yelled, I followed; there on the side path was a hooded youth, in our garden, outside the bin store, swinging a sledgehammer inches away from the kitchen window. It was a terrifying moment. Thankfully the youth just gave us the finger and retreated to his mates in the park.
It’s said we all have a flight vs fight response. I was furious, half way through getting my shoes on to go out the front and ask what the hell they were doing, when Richard restrained me; he called the police instead. They didn’t come. About 1am we heard noises in the street and saw some of the same youths smashing up a bike. For once, we didn’t bother to call the police again.
Through my work I meet many young people who care about their community, and others who just want a quiet life. Young people are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. They have a right to hang out with their friends. And we must not demonise or criminalise all youths on the basis of an antisocial minority. But last night’s youths were vandals, potentially violent, and their age is no excuse.
Crime is actually falling in our borough. I was burgled in 2005 and 2006 but not (so far) this year, so real life matches the stats. So now we need the police to use their resources to deal with the current problems our communities face. Tackling crime is a liberal issue, and I’m sick of hearing patronising lectures from Labour politicians who live on the borough’s plushest streets that somehow only they have the answers, when manifestly they do not.