Sunday, 27 September 2009

Taking Responsibility .. Just Do It

I very much disagree with Superintendent Steve Harrod that anti-social behaviour and low level hooliganism is not the responsibility of the police. I don't know who rules the streets in Leicestershire but I would hang my head in shame if a similar case happened on my patch. He is not picking up on what's important here. The silent majority are suffering from swaggering youths and want them to be tackled, but feel ignored. Those comments do not do much to instill confidence in the police do they?

I take his point about the inept criminal justice system and punishments handed out to young people in the form of reprimands, but does that mean we should do nothing? There are things that can be done and working together with the local authority can actually be more effective than the criminal route. I don't know what they did up there, but one of the best meetings I used to attend was our anti social behaviour one with the housing officers. We would discuss local problems and you could gauge where the demand was coming from. A few extra patrols and a few words in the right ears was often enough to nip things in the bud.

When that didn't work it was a case of getting out there and taking the ground. Youth gathering points would be visited to identify the likely culprits. This caused conflict with the kids whose usual riposte was "we ain't got nowhere to go" "we ain't doing nothing" "why are you always harassing us?" You could pass the names to the local authority who could send out warning letters but this is only a first step to deter them.

I've always found the best way was to covertly record their antics. This would mean getting a RIPA authority to conduct surveillance. I would only use this after pro-active patrolling had failed to stop the unruly behaviour. These kids will hang out every night and police teams due to shift working just can't put out the same presence on a regular basis. Sledgehammer to crack a nut? Well it is certainly an awful lot of paperwork, but if everything else has failed what else can be tried?

I received a lot of complaints about kids throwing eggs, smoking dope and being noisy on one of my estates. Nobody rang me direct and they rarely called 999 because by the time units turned up the kids had gone, if anybody actually came. They would however stop and tell me on foot patrol.The evidence was all over the back windows of the houses that backed onto the estate. A bit of door knocking, and some of the residents told me how bad things were. They were kept awake by shouting and swearing but when they shouted at the group they got abuse back, followed a few days later by eggs thrown at their property. One lady even had her window smashed splintering glass over where her baby usually slept. Bloody disgraceful, now tell me again that this isn't conduct that police should tackle.

A few days of filming showed a group gathering sat on railings outside of a sheltered housing block. The railings were about three feet from an elderly lady's back window. I filmed continued spitting on the floor so it actually formed a small puddle, smoking of cannabis and general noisy screaming and shouting. OK nothing too outrageous from a criminal view point and definitely seen as low level anti-social behaviour but to the other residents it was living in hell. I got a statement from the old lady who was at the end of her tether and had previously contacted the housing office to complain. She however chose to just live with it too scared to go to bed if the group were outside her window. Tell me again how this is not the responsibility of the police to deal with it. I would hope that Mr Harrod would not try and pass this off if he dealt with these people and would actually do something to help them.

The video was not pleasant viewing and some of the parents of those identified were invited in to the housing office to see it. They were really ashamed and thankfully in that case it was enough to solve the problem. I've seen the same tactic used where the behaviour was more criminal. All the culprits were summoned to a youth clinic to be reprimanded. Some police officers out there do care because they can see what's wrong and will work hard to do something for the silent majority .. it's called taking responsibility.

RIPA - Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 .. Authority to be granted by superintendent for covert surveillance activities. Lots of writing about proportionate use and necessity so not to infringe the human rights of those who don't give a shite about anybody else.

10 comments:

Blue Eyes said...

Good work. That is the kind of thing that people want from "neighbourhood" policing.

Luckily the kids on my estate are fairly benign, but I mentioned cannabis smoking to the local PC when she came to our estate meeting. She basically told me that because there are worse estates in the area nobody would do anything about it.

The problem with that approach, for me, is that it is quite likely that things will get worse and then there will be one more "bad" estate - which will be harder to turn back into a "nice" one.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Blue eyes

Ask the local youths if they know her .. If they don't there's your answer.

Estate policing is easy . you just need everybody to understand that when you're on duty - it belongs to you.

Merlin said...

General point; first time I've read this blog. Very good stuff, IMHO.

Specific to the topic; abso-bl**dy-lutely. It's got to be about "confident policing" & demonstrating, in a non-confrontational way if possible, who is actually in charge of a patch.

Metcountymounty said...

I've done my share of estate policing, the main thing is keeping a lid on it. When I first moved up to the Met my new Superintendent had a chat with me and gave me his views on what he thought Policing should be about. Basically his ethos was that the streets belong to the Queen and EVERYONE ELSE is a guest, and if they misbehave then we should remove them as we would any disrespectful trespasser from her house. Hence the last bit in the 5 basic rules of Policing - Protect life, protect property, prevent crime, detect crime, and keep the Queens peace.

The low level things are exactly what we should be dealing with. I think it would have been significantly better if Mr Harrod had stood in front of the inquest and said something like "between them they had been arrested over a hundred times and they received little or no penalty after the CPS occasionally sent them to court, there was nothing else that we could have done short of shooting them. We only have a limited number of people to deal with all the calls that we get and have to deal with, as much as we want to we can't be everywhere, but when we were there we nicked them"

Blue Eyes said...

Will you come and sort out my part of town please Mr MCM?

Tom said...

Keep the Queens peace!

I understand, and aprreciate the officers comments about RIPA, as I recall the doomed experiment in London some years ago.

A legal beagle working in the Treasury department of the local council, after consultation with police decided to use the civil law as opposed to the criminal law to deal with the troublemakers. The 'nasty' people did not pay rent and were in arrears. They did not respect the 'quite enjoyment' of the property of fellow tenants, and as a result were dealt with in the civil court.

On a balance of probability, the miscreants found themselves judged voluntarily 'homeless' and thrown out of their home. I think it was Hackney. Because the test was not the 'beyond a reasonable' doubt demanded by criminal law, but by that of the civil law, the nasty people lost their home, and the estate became reasonable, and habitable again.

However, the lack of police being able to contain the problem remains to this day the fault of a judiciary enslaved to the social engineering it believes is the way forward in dealing with feral youth as dictated by a useless, and toothles government.

Fortunately, I live in a nice area, but please tell me SOP, if it does kick off, you, or officers of your ilk, will come along and take the turf back, and not rely on a spotty 19 year old from the council to put it right.

PS: When I say doomed, I meant no other council stepped up to the proverbial plate.

Metcountymounty said...

Tom, going down the civil route is a good option but it's usually the last one after every criminal route has been tried. It also doesn't help in the slightest when some tosspot social worker undermines a RIPA op by giving the family at the target address the heads up that we're going to be putting the door through to get all the stolen goods they'd been handling. Apparently they didn't think it was nice for us to put the door in at 4am when there were kids in the house... but handling stolen goods from burglars and taking class A's was ok. Thankfully said tosspot was moved but only after the head of dept was threatened with getting nicked for obstruction as they ok'd the suggestion that the family to sort themselves out, the day before we went in.

Having everyone singing from the same sheet is essential but as long as we have to work with 'partner agencies' who have diametrically opposed working practIces and agendas it's never going work properly.

Stressed Out Cop said...

Merlin

You are very welcome here

MCM

The perceived little nuisance stuff will never receive due attention in the courts.

Doing nothing is not an option. Even by attending a certain stairwell and standing there for hours if need be, makes a point and lets the residents know you've listened to their problems.

Definately a medium/long term problem and one for the community team.

Tom

Part 2 of this post will go on to cover civil law which is actually better than going down the criminal route, such is the demise of our CJS.

Blue Eyes

Tell your local team to get off their backsides and show some presence. I suggest e-mailing them .. and suggesting some static patrols might be in order.

It's that time of the year when the dark nights brings them into the stairwells. It might only displace to elsewhere but you will get some peace.

SOC

Blue Eyes said...

SOC, been there, done that...

One of my neighbours who is on the estate committee told me her strategy which is to give the stairs a good scrub with bleach on a regular basis. Make the stairs smell like a swimming pool and the smokers will be less inclined to sit there of an evening :-))

Stressed Out Cop said...

Blue Eyes

Then as you're in London go sit on their local police ward panel and set the objectives yourselves as residents.

Believe me you will get better policing. It's often a case of who shouts loudest ..gets