It's Time to Say Enough Is Enough on Violent Crime; ANALYSIS

The Birmingham Post (England), August 29, 2007 | Go to article overview

It's Time to Say Enough Is Enough on Violent Crime; ANALYSIS


Byline: By David Cameron

With violent crime dominating the headlines, Conservative leader David Cameron argues that the time has come to draw a line in the sand and declare enough is enough

Last week, 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster died from injuries sustained when she and her boyfriend were attacked by a group of teenagers as they walked through a skate park in Bacup, Lancashire.

Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Andrew Holland was stabbed to death outside a chip shop in Farnworth, Greater Manchester.

And then last week, in Croxteth in Liverpool, 11-year-old Rhys Jones was shot dead as he walked home from playing football with his friends.

Deaths by fists, knives and guns are becoming a regular feature of British news. These stories from the north of England have counterparts all over the country. At least 18 children and young people have been murdered in London this year alone.

Most violence against young people is carried out by other young people.

Sian Impson, for instance, was murdered by a gang of teenage girls. But adults are not safe either. When Garry Newlove went to remonstrate with a group of youths causing trouble outside his house, he ended up dead on the pavement.

These murders must serve as a line in the sand - the point at which British politics and society declare that enough is enough.

It is simply unacceptable - a moral reproach to our country - that someone should have the opportunity and the inclination to kill an 11-year-old child with a handgun.

To fight violent crime, we need to understand its nature, scope and origins. The Government argues that the problem is limited in scale and location. In February this year, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair said that it was a "specific problem within a specific criminal culture", and not indicative of "the general state of British society".

In the aftermath of the death of Rhys Jones, the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has maintained this line. She told an interviewer that "I don't agree with David Cameron that we live in a broken society".

She is wrong.

In the last 10 years, violent crime has doubled. Gun violence has increased four-fold. Knife crime has more than doubled in the last two years alone. Serious crime is not a localised problem. As the deaths of Sophie Lancaster, Andrew Holland, Rhys Jones and Garry Newlove demonstrate, fatal violence is a risk that can strike anyone at any time. It is not confined to the turf wars of criminal gangs.

Moreover, violent crime is itself an extension of the minor crime which is common throughout our towns and cities. And widespread minor crime is the direct product of a broken society, including the failure or inability of the police to assert control of the streets.

As Rudolph Guiliani, the former mayor of New York, put it: "Murder and graffiti are two vastly different crimes But they are part of the same continuum, and a climate that tolerates one is more likely to tolerate the other."

Guiliani and his police chief Bill Bratton demonstrated, however, that rising crime is not inevitable. In eight years in the 1990s, the murder rate in New York fell by three-quarters, from 2,245 homicides in 1990 to 633 in 1998. This was achieved through an increase in police officers on the streets, robust community policing, and proper management accountability with local precinct commanders given greater freedom and responsibility.

Total crime fell by two-thirds between 1990 and 2002.

In 1996, the Boston Police Department launched Operation Ceasefire. This was a combination of a direct, law-enforcement attack on illegal gun traffickers and intensive criminal justice intervention aimed at youth gang members. The result was that youth murders fell by two-thirds.

In Chicago, the Alternative Policing Strategy was introduced in the 1990s to fight local crime and disorder. …

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