Saturday, August 25, 2007

Violent crime, part 2

While various commentators reprint Laban Tall's all-purpose Guardian editorial, I'd like to expand on a few of the points I made in my earlier post.

The relationship of migration to crime, while obvious, isn't in itself an argument against allowing immigration. Internal migration will have some of the same effect in a country - it's all about the movement of criminals to new territories and the resultant competition for market share. However, it is an argument for realism when contemplating the effects of opening territory up to new migration. You get the whole of the culture of new migrant groups - Jamaican patties, Reggae and Yardies - not some sanitised version.

Large scale government mandated migration also shatters host communities, although new structures will develop in time. The subsequent void is one in which crime will not only develop, but in which it will be harder to combat. Either you accept this, and honesty means this should be an explicit acceptance, or you develop strategies to mitigate it. "Empowering communities" by giving them government money to build more community centres will have no effect whatsoever. It would help if we handled asylum obligations by helping, financially and physically, countries that neighbour those from which refugees come to accommodate them. Refusing to allow refugees to choose their country of destination would also help. Both of these courses of action would safeguard the refugee while breaking down the structures that lead to crime and, incidentally, to false asylum claims.

Meaningful empowerment of communities would mean the relinquishment of control of settlement by governments. If it were up to a migrant to negotiate their way into the existing structures of a place, finding work with someone who is willing, personally, to employ them and buying or renting somewhere to live from someone willing, personally, to enter into this transaction with them, then a community would be genuinely empowered.

Police investigating the latest child murder have complained about a "wall of silence" from the local community, and they attribute this to fear. That might be a part of it, and it's something that is worth exploring in more detail, but it isn't the whole story. Over the past half century, the middle classes have learned, and come to use, the vocabulary of the prison yard. Violent criminals like "Mad" Frankie Fraser have been feted and asked to dinner parties, even to contribute to TV shows like "What I would do if I were Prime Minister". The normalisation of crime and the spread of the values of the criminal is a part of the problem, not in Croxteth but in Notting Hill.

The criminalisation of drugs is the main driver behind this. The first criminal I ever met was a hash dealer. Without this, I doubt I'd ever have met a criminal. As it was, I went on to meet many, many more and as time went on, and criminalisation became more draconian, these people changed from hippy smugglers* to former armed robbers.

Whoever helps the police in Liverpool, and whatever their circumstances, they will be called "grasses" - in an entirely pejorative sense. The police want their help. Necessarily, to have any knowledge of the crime they will be at least on the margins of it. And they'll be, at best, insulted for helping. And this attitude will extend into the printed and broadcast media. Middle class journalists, who have long printed hagiographies of criminals from Ronnie Biggs to the Kray twins will use the language and show the attitudes of professinal criminals.

This has nothing to do with rap music, which reflects rather than causes inner city circumstances. Cameron needs to heal himself, or at least his neighbours, before telling people not to narrate their own lives in poetry.

*UPDATE - While I like the thought of people smuggling hippies, that isn't what I meant.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"new structures will develop in time": quite; it took only, what, 1500 years or so for central heating to return after the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons.