I don't want to be a brick in a wall. All bricks look the same and they are cemented into place, kept in rigid order. And walls divide. And life is like banging your head...

Street Crime

Street crime is an issue that has dominated the news and phone-ins today. Coincidentally there was a report released that suggested that the perpetrators of street crime do it for kicks rather than financial gain, the murderers of Tom ap Rhys Pryce were sentenced and a seperate report suggested that Black people were more likely to "be known" to the justice system. There were a great number of views expressed; some from the so-called liberal do-gooders and others from the far right.

For what it's worth, here are some of the thoughts I had in response to the opinions expressed.

Society condemns youths who roam the streets in gangs, and by society I clearly mean middle class society. Urban class society does not condemn such behaviour and here lies some of the problem.

Society's response to tackle this 'problem' is to try and impose middle class morals and values through crime prevention, the justice system and education in an attempt to allow these people to make something of themselves. However, from the perspective of the urban class, these gang members are making something of themselves in their world which is so different to ours. Ruling the streets through fear and intimidation is a mark of success in exactly the same way as a semi-detached house, new car and family pet are for the middle classes.

Another common thread was that it was the parents fault, that parents of these youths were not looking after their kids properly and didn't know where they were. Part of the problem here is that this newly identified underclass have fewer job opportunities. They frequently have to work shifts and don't have the money for proper child care. The alternative is to stay at home, look after their children and claim benefits. This leads to further condemnation though as witnessed in other phone ins and message boards. Middle class society is no more accepting of benefit claiming single parents than it is of street roaming youths.

Make up your mind Britain. Do you want parents at work, earning and contributing to the tax system, or do you want them being better parents? They can't do both.

Many people asked for these youths to be locked up and the key thrown away. I don't believe that prison is the deterrent it used to be, The media has demystified prison. We see prisoners surviving, thriving, being cared for. The reality of prison is less frightening than we imagined. But making it more frightening and harsher is also not the answer. The two who killed Tom ap Rhys Pryce will still be reasonably young men when they are released. Do you think that 10 years of brutality in jail would make them less violent, happier social creatures?

Finally, the black issue. Saying that street crime is a black problem is not racist. The figures suggest that this may well be true. What is racist is the suggestion that these men are criminals because they are black. A rational society has to examine why so many young black people are involved in street crime. But it must also examine why the vast majority of paedophiles, serial killers and rapists are white men. Violent crime is not a black issue. Let's face it, it's a man issue! We should not be asking why black men commit violent crime, we should be asking why men commit violent crime.

Street crime is high profile because it offends middle class sensibilities. The educated middle classes are threatened by it and therefore use their power to address it. The middle class media draw attention to it and very quickly we find ouselves in a spiralling atmosphere of violent dtreet crime. But we need to remember that more people are killed by white, middle class dangerous, drunk or speeding motorists, than are killed by street thugs.

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