Friday, July 19, 2024

Sunday Comment: I didn’t predict a riot

Editorial Comment

“The primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquility, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful, and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained” (Richard Mayne, 1829 in setting out the test and purpose of establishing the police).

Funnily enough, I was walking down Tottenham High Road yesterday afternoon, feeling that all was well in the world. I don’t manage to get to many games outwith the five teams in the borough but took this opportunity to go to the pre-season friendly between Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

As we travelled on the train, we were surrounded by families and fans who strolled their way down to White Hart Lane. It seemed a generation away from times in the seventies when visits to football grounds were like fraught with danger.

At the end of the game, the tannoy informed fans that the High Road was closed off.

We walked back to Northumberland Park Station, blissfully unaware of the destruction that was about to take place.

What has most concerned people is the way the police conceded the territory to the rioters.

What has concerned many people has been that often policing has been centred on the protection of property but here the businesses of many people from the self employed shopkeeper to PC World and Carpetright were up in flames.

But funnily the day before, we had also seen policing that seemed somewhat anaemic and so far removed from the original raison d’etre.

A family pub on Friday. Never seen any bother there. Two men argue in the beer garden surrounded by families. One smashes a bottle on the side of the others head.

They leave, police attend, apprised of circumstances, area searched, no trace and leave (apparently). All the people in the pub ask: Are they not going to ask if anyone has seen anything, or has evidence etc.

Logistics suggest that there are limited cops on duty that night and they have to make judgement calls.

But the public seem to see too much of this. In Thurrock, we were told that people may be able to set their watches to drug deals around the borough but if the police arrested ten today another ten would turn up tomorrow.

You imagine if you saw ten drunk drivers weaving down the A13. Rang the police and they came up with that response.

Likewise at T-Fest. The police announced that there were no arrests. There is a difference between a fair number of public order offences and deciding for whatever reasons, not to arrest.

Such a culture or a political mindset was bound to lead to last nights rioting and looting in Tottenham. The criminals couldn’t believe how far they could take it. It appeared last night that criminals, criminality and drug gangs controlled the streets of London in a way that many people never thought possible.

These are difficult times. We may be dragged down into the double dip of the recession and Thurrock is not immune to a rising crime rate. Needless to say, we will be spun the line re recorded crime.

But speak to any community worker and they are pretty depressed. The hard work of a decade or more feels like it is being unpicked. Time after time you would hear of great work by the community teams were diverting young people away from crime.

Now, the music studios lay idle, the projects cancelled, the staff decimated and some young people struggling without the benefit of educational maintenance allowance and a raft of other support mechanisms, have a bleak future.

But it was obvious to Margaret Thatcher when she took over the Conservative Party in 1975 that in order to push through difficult reforms you needed to have the police with you and in numbers.

Instead we in Essex have 383 less officers. Officers having to reapply for their own jobs and the worst of the cuts yet to come. Thurrock Council alone has to make £13 million in savings and no matter what you say, somewhere along the line there needs to be an impact.

There is a meeting of community leaders and educationalists next month, facilitated by the Royal Opera House. Around the borough there are pockets of Neighbourhood Action Panels (Aveley and South Ockendon are particularly good) and pro-active schemes in Tilbury have also been praised.

As we write this comment piece, things are now kicking off in Enfield in the domino effect that occurred in 1981.

What has happened can be used as a launchpad for communities to act proactively to ensure that there is a sense of hope for all the members of its community.

As the motto says at White Hart Lane: “To Dare Is To Do”


  1. From The Scottish Man

    Now while some editors, mentioning no names, have faced anger, violence and the occassional attack with a blunt potato peeler, notwithstanding being humped regularly at indoor cricket ,there have been no riots in Scotland
    (as yet) and in all probability there will not be. we have had a small section of the great unwashed posting notices on blogs and various sites indicating we should have a riot, they , as is clear in the press. have been arrested. Im sure thats called definitive action.

    Imagine my surprise this morning to read that the editors former colleauges are to descend on London to help sort out the rioters and resolve matters, well at least help. Given the hisotry of animosity between the different police forces, the different technical knowledge and the even more awkward forms of law enforcement between jurisdiction how are they going tio implement this. Has english law and scottish law been combined. Are the scots going to now swear a new allegiance under english law to the commander of the police and the queen or is this the beginning of the end of separated policing in the uk which will become a transportable brass fest which allows for the unification of all forces on a UK level and the removal of barriers.

    Your Ed makes the point regarding policing numbers and as he knows the days of beat bobbies are long gone, and argubaly these were days of less violent crime, but had the riots started here would london have sent help to us, not a hope in hell, possibly beacuse they know that matters would have been dealt with in a much more measured way and certainly by means of aggressive tactics. moreover they know the indiginous population would simply mock them. I wouldnt be so crass as to even consider advising a bloke from enfield about the law beacause i know nothing about it in England.

    Would anyone from enfield want to be policed by a guy from scotland who occassionally crosses path with a an ethnic citizen or would they be able to underssnd each others language including te age old coccey banter, how are you meant to police and ineract on a community level if you have no idea who are the good guys and who are the bad, only local plod will know and moreover what possible confidence would you have in police who dont even know how to get further than kings cross station.

    Riots happen, they have historically but the put down in this case hasnt happened, the question to ask is why not, what form of policing must we endure that allows an other to kick the crap out out of shop and set it on fire. There is a classic scottish phrase, gett intae them. in this case its what was needed but for some reason the sound of crashing bottles could be heard form westminster via scotrland yard to enfield. We, and by this i mean the whole country , will all pay for many years, the costs of policing,( rememeber the miners strike budget) of rebuild, of insurance premiums never mind the mental scarring will last for twetny years, London and scotland never recovered from the cost of the poll tax riots until the early 2000’s. Action panels, talking shops, counselling what next, england is a different animal to scotland, london is even more unusual due its racial mix and extremes of poverty and wealth, but had the police actually policed, and had done it properly since the last serious riots, there would be no problem, no expecation of further riots, roll on 2012, assuming they find the balls to police it properly.


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