Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How to deal with yob culture?

Social misfits, like the young cretin I saw the other day, who threw away his McDonalds thickshake across the footpath on Kings Road the other day, to impress the girls he was with to some extent, are repulsive. I wish I could have dumped rubbish on his bed and made him clean up the street.
Britain has more than its fair share of them. Essentially there is a lack of respect, of others and their property, and a lauding of a culture of looking and acting tough and threatening, and not caring how obnoxious you are. It is about attention seeking and rebellion, and its vile. It scares older people, and sometimes involves intimidating people for a laugh or vandalism. It comes from regarding all around you as demanding your attention, and you not needing to take responsibility for you or your actions.
Tony Blair is declaring war on it. Having already introduced ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour Orders) which can be taken out on anyone down to the age of 10 for consistent behaviour that can be considered a nuisance or comprises low level criminality such as vandalism, tagging and the sort. It is effectively a fast track prosecution, without actually being one – it prohibits people from being out at certain times or being in certain locations. Unfortunately, they are often broken.
Blair’s concern is understandable. The Guardian reported him saying:
"In practice, the person who spits at an old lady on her way to the shops is not prosecuted because to do so takes many police hours, much resource and if all that is overcome, the outcome is a fine. The result is the police do not think it is worth it; and so it doesn't happen."
Unfortunately his response is a mixed bag. Some have value, such as increasing some fines, lowering the threshold for seizure of proceeds of crime, providing an option for requiring offenders to undertake unpaid work to make good damage (such as cleaning tagging off of properties), a national non-emergency police contact number and orders that be sought against parents for serious misbehaviour by children.
Others are either silly or disturbing. Silly, like paying teenage parents to attend parenting classes – disturbing such as the suggestion that the burden of proof be reversed in some cases. That is a dangerous precedent, that could lead to false accusations by those who are the problem – what if an obnoxious 14yo told the Police you spat on her and made a lewd comment and you had to prove your innocence? Trust the Police isn’t good enough.
So what IS the answer? Longer term, it is about cultural change, about decrying the nihilistic, do what you want, have no responsibility, blame everyone else for your problems culture that has grown in the last few decades. It is about celebrating excellence, and not snarling at it, and about genuine benevolence for those in need, not as a right, but because people care about people who genuinely show effort and desire to look after themselves. This means not glorifying the stupid, vapid, obnoxious, tough and unproductive. It means a culture where entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, surgeons, shopkeepers and others who create are what people aspire to – rather than aspire to be rich, rude and otherwise useless, as the glorification of fame for the sake of it, rather than due to talent, continues to grow.
Shorter term, it is about giving those who CAN deal with obnoxious people the means to act, and about not subsidising the obnoxious at all.
This means:
1. Abolishing victimless crimes, so the Police can concentrate on offences of the person and property. Leaving peaceful people alone so that those who are not can be targeted, and then the Police themselves may be respected more, and have a greater presence in public places as a deterrent;
2. Asserting the right of people to defend themselves and their property. This means not banning pepper sprays, allowing peaceful people to own firearms and making it clear that you have the right to use reasonable force to respond to any attack;
3. Defending private property rights – which means ensuring landlords can evict tenants who damage property and harass other people, and shopkeepers can ban people from their shops and impose whatever restrictions they wish upon who enters or not. Private property is not a public place – people may learn than entering malls, shops, railway stations is not a right;
4. Stop subsidising failure. At the very least, convicted criminals (offences against the body or property) should be prohibited from receiving any state welfare or state/council housing. As long as welfare remains, parents who do not control their children’s behaviour should have their benefits cut off after a warning, and face eviction from state provided housing. The public should not be forced to subsidise the lives of those who damage the lives of others. This should be the first step towards abolishing compulsory social welfare.
Blair has a point that many Brits will agree on, but it needs people to act and for parents to be held accountable. There are many reasons why a segment of young people spit, vandalism and disturb people – the change in families, erosion of fear of parental authority for starters, but it needs a concerted effort to turn back over time.
Changing the burden of proof for any criminal offences removes a fundamental freedom, that will be exploited by a segment of the public and the police - and should be resisted.


Lindsay said...

Your post reminded me about these new-fangled ASBOs. This came from the TIMES;

With the new Tories sounding more and more like new Labour, who is going to talk about the missing element? Fathers. Where are the fathers? Look at acceptable behaviour contracts. Some 13,000 of these have been signed, twice the number of ASBOs. Drawn up individually between youth workers and individuals, they warn a child, under threat of an ASBO, to avoid a range of actions from writing graffiti to hanging around in stairways, throwing things or swearing. They are doing the job traditionally done by a father: don’t do that again, or else. 'There aren’t any fathers' is what you hear when you talk to members of teenage gangs and those who get involved in crime at a young age...

Seamonkey Madness said...

At the same time you could say that the fathers have the same attitude to life and authority in general, but are too busy working to a)misbehave in public themselves; and b) look after their stupid offspring.

I think some of the trouble also stems from lack of discipline at school. Not to say that UK teachers are crap (although the education system would be 1/2way screwed without the Oz, Saffa, Canadian and Kiwi supply teachers), but they aren't allowed to (properly) bring the kids into line when they mouth off and misbehave. Also, they are now pandering to a multi-cultural where you have to tip-toe through all sorts of subjects and watch what you say.

I've heard some scary stories from teachers of what the little blighters can get up to and get away with scot-free.

Nichlemn said...

Crack down on youth offending, no matter how minor, hard but mainly smart. Unfortunately politics is a short term game and people would rather see police working NOW to change the hardcore criminals NOW. But that's not getting anywhere. The kid who does a bit of graffiti seems a bit of a waste, and it is by itself. But you're looking to the future here, and if you can steer this kid back into lawful society, you'll save an enormous amount down the line.

One size won't fit all, some won't respond as well to certain techniques than others. So try out a multitude of methods on the youth offender. Shame them. Threaten them. Teach them. Encourage them. It may take a while and won't show any real results for years but they'll be well worth it. I believe a large % of offenders could have had their lives changed.

Of the rest, they're a lost cause. After the first offense and the long process of attempting to steer them, you try another approach. You're still attempting to save them, but the fact the last attempt didn't work on them means you'll need to be considerably harsher. Threats become more intense. Harsher measures are used. You don't quite throw them away yet - but they're risking it.

On the third offense, "third strike", even if all offenses were quite minor, the hammer really comes down. They're isolated from the public somehow, whether it be prison or whatever is necessary to stop the offending. If all the signs point to a repeat offender, there's no point giving them dozens of chances. Your aim here is not so much to punish them for their crimes but to protect the public from the crimes. More options than prisons should be explored, as not all prisoners may "fit" in a prisoner (also, the large cost is a factor).

libertyscott said...

Exactly Lindsay, that is a major problem - decline of the 2 parent family, but there are also useless fathers and mothers that shouldn't be parents in the first place.

Nichlemn you're right, and I think that if the state concentrated on multiple ways to deal with the criminal justice problems, rather than so many of the other activities it undertakes, then there could be some progress.

I believe in three strikes and you're out. First time you get rehabilitated. Second time punished and a severe warning that 3rd time, you are kept out of society for a minimum of ten years, in order to protect the rest of us.