Youth violence is a problem that has hit an apex in recent years. To say, of course, that it is the direct result of todays society is unkind, for we have had dilinquency for many years before today. The problem appears, however, to have hit that height of notoriety in recent years. Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death by a group of thugs in the middle of last year. When the fiends that did it were convicted, Radio 4 ran a short report on Bacup and it's youth problem. Now, I'm not a resident of Bacup, but I do know a little bit about the area.

Bacup is very similar to Accrington in many respects. It's smaller, granted. It's got pretty high unemployment, economic inactivity etc etc. Unlike Accrington, however, it has this large group of thugs.

I am always slightly stunned by the horrific details of the attacks, but ultimately the saddest part is that her death was almost completely unpreventable by our society. In our system there are winners and there are losers. These poor saps who did the crime are the sons of losers, or losers themselves. And that means that we cannot truely punish them. By throwing them in prison, we punish them for their crime. But we cannot do that to every member of the 30-large gang. Society assumes that prison destroys lives. This is true.

The end result? The real problem - that of a small group of our generation becoming entirely detached from society and wreaking havok on all and sundry - is one that society cannot prevent. The depressing part of the Radio 4 report was that Bacup was not able to learn its lesson. That is, sadly, true. But what Bacup, like many of the small towns of Britain, needs is a new direction. What we need to understand is that problems like youth violence cannot be solved by throwing the thugs in jail. The crimes need to be prevented, lessened, even pre-empted with action. So often in these towns, the police is sidelined and understaffed. When gangs form, the officers lack the resources to tackle them head on. So these gangs can - almost literally - get away with murder, because there are more of them then there are of the police.

Two or three more police on the streets in Bacup might have saved Sophie's life. The reasons behind this growth in youth violence is the feel that the police are powerless to stop them. They are. It is perhaps truely ironic that in some cases the police have far too much power - like raiding Parliament - but in most cases far too little. It's a sad irony. But, perhaps, the steps that are needed are well known to the public. More actual police officers. Less time stuck with paperwork. More proactive policing.

Like so many things in our country today, policing needs a wholesale review and reform. The lack of reforms simply appears to be creating the opportunity for crime.


Hywel said...

One of the issues about the Sophie Lancaster murder is that whilst it was a hate crime in any conventional sense of the word it didn't come under specific hate crime legislation (ie race, gender, sexuality etc).

It's one reason why I don't like the idea of specific hate crimes as targeting someone for violence because of the way they dress is no less reprehensible than targeting someone for other reasons