Saturday, August 25, 2007

Violent crime

You can track the story of migration to Britain from the crime reports in newspapers; from Yardies in the 1970s and 80s, to our contemporary Somalis and Eastern Europeans. The rise in Asylum seeking has made things predictably worse, bringing in people from increasingly violent or lawless societies, and guaranteeing that they cannot be deported if they break the law.

Under any circumstances, this would have led to a rise in violent crime, but the nature of contemporary crime amplifies this. Contemporary crime is extremely territorial, dealing as it does less in opportunities for robbery than in market share. But that's what happens when you criminalise consensual adult activities like prostitution and drug taking.

Children have long been used as bag carriers, with drugs and guns in the bags. By children, I mean people under the age of criminal responsibility. The reason is obvious: the consequences of capture are least for them. As penalties for, say, adult gun possession are increased, so the incentives for using children in this role are increased. It's very, very simple. Under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, a mandatory 5 year prison sentence was introduced for firearm possession in the UK. This created an incentive for criminals to give firearms to children, to keep for them or to use as African child soldier type enforcers. A spate of murders of children by children has, inevitably, followed.

The authoritarian solution to these problems has some merits. Countries like Singapore have managed to maintain low crime rates. The introduction of capital punishment, corporal punishment, even the stocks, combined with restrictions on immigration and the automatic deportation of foreign criminals irrespective of the circumstances of their home countries would lower crime. I'd prefer not to live in such a society, but this approach would work.

Legalisation, and regulation, of prostitution and drugs and the liberalisation of guns laws combined with zero-tolerance policing for the, genuinely criminal, crime that remained would also work. That's the solution I'd prefer.

What won't work, is more of the same. Unfortunately, more of the same is precisely the solution offered by every major Uk political party.

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