New anti-social behaviour tools are all well and good, says Julie Fawcett, but for them to work, we must rebuild our communities first
Pulling the trigger
In 1829 London was already the largest city in the world with 38 per cent of its population born outside the capital. The population then was roughly 2 million people from across the globe and other parts of Britain. Law and order was becoming a problem as well as unemployment and civil unrest. Sound familiar?
The police force in London was set up by Robert Peel with the primary object of the prevention and detection of crime, the protection of life and property and the preservation of public tranquillity. Oh, and the protection of the class structure that runs our country.
The key performance indicator to ensure this was all working was going to be the absence of crime that would let our leaders know if their objectives had been obtained. A couple of hundred years on and we are still tinkering.
Who would have thought that the home secretary’s ‘community trigger’ would be an appropriate title for those of us living in areas with reputations for anti-social behaviour and gun crime. The new power, under which individual community members can compel the police to investigate anti-social behaviour, conjures up images of High Noon.
The Wild West
Now if you are a youngster a quick trot through the plot of High Noon is probably necessary. Told in real time it is about ex-marshall Kane (played by Gary Cooper) in the Wild West who gets married and tries to leave the town he used run. As he is about to leave with his wife Amy (played by Grace Kelly), he is forced to face the fact that a gang of killers is heading towards his town and that the townsfolk are too terrified, selfish, want a quiet life or whatever, and they don’t want to challenge the anti-social killers.
They want Kane to go away and leave the gang alone. They are too worried about the repercussions of challenging violent men. There is no ground swell of local people who want Kane to take them on. High Noon is about a man’s conflict of conscience.
His friends and neighbours just don’t want to get involved, his best friend refuses to help him and even the judge hurries to leave town to save his own skin saying: ‘This is just a dirty little village in the middle of nowhere.’
Doing the right thing
It is Kane who has to return to the town to pull the ‘community trigger’ on behalf of everyone… even though no one really wants him to. He pulls the trigger three times.
Great story… the baddies die, the hero is injured but, most tellingly, the final scene is Kane contemptuously throwing down his marshall’s badge in front of the townsfolk who, when it is all over, come out from whatever they were hiding behind to measure up the dead bodies. It is not clear if Kane’s act is a gesture of contempt for the townsfolk or the law.
Now there are lots of messages in the film, but I watched it as a kid and the overwhelming one me was that you do the right thing - whatever
Lots of tenants I meet up and down the country have faced their own High Noon and I’ve just got to say that the community trigger is really just an admission of defeat. Communities need to stick together to face common threats, they really are the only people who can defeat the ‘baddies’. It can’t be up to one or three people to pull that trigger. If we are in a situation where we really can’t rely on our own neighbours or the police then we are indeed in a poor state.
We rely on the police to do things that we as a community should do for ourselves. But the rules and society have now changed and communities are completely neutered.
This is the ‘brave new world’. Dominated by the stifling blanket of politics and technology with more and more cameras watching us, remotely monitored by unaccountable people as we sleepwalk into a state of compliance. Rampant capitalism leaves no place for the vulnerable and Marxism is proved a total failure because it too means the poor remain poor and ill-educated.
Maybe there are simply too many of us on the planet for communities to actually learn to love each other, maybe the ruling classes just want to control the things that frighten them. Maybe we frighten those rulers. They move into their protected communities behind closed gates and try to create new laws.
The result is that the politicians always try to create solutions that they can control and monitor, just like the cultures in a petri dish. They are now the superstars of the world. They want celebrity too. They need the contract with Hello! magazine and will crawl around pretending to be cats if they think it will earn them exposure.
Who do we look to for role models? The British people have lost their family structures, they have been whittled away in order to provide a work force for the business sector that drives Britain plc.
Tenants, just keep your finger on the redial button if you want the law to protect you in your unloved neighbourhood, but remember that when the chips are down it is your neighbour who should be your first port of call… but only if you extend the hand of friendship first.
Julie Fawcett is a housing association tenant and director of Stockwell Park Community Trust