Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Crime and Punishment

Hmmm. Well. It seems news of the neighbours from hell's departure was premature, delayed by Mrs Smith taking another well deserved holiday, thoughtfully leaving at least three youths in the house in case we missed her too much. Mrs Angry wishes her family could afford as many holidays as Mrs Smith, but sadly the Angry family income has to be spent on the mortgage, minus a whopping amount of tax to pay for the various benefits received by the Smith family and their resident guests. Of course, as you can imagine, Mr Angry has been only too happy to be kept awake night after night by the Smith boys and their excitable chums and then tiptoe off to work knackered, foul tempered and and bleary eyed, closing the front door gently while they enjoy a nice long lie in, bless them.

So Mrs Angry must pass the time somehow, counting down the days, the hours, until they may leave for pastures new, to make life hell for some as yet unwitting neighbours somewhere else. Of course, no one at Barnet Council has had the courtesy to tell us what is happening - or indeed answer any of our many enquiries in the last few weeks - despite the heightened risk to us of a nasty parting gift from this ghastly household.

Well, plenty more stuff to blog about: fifteen months worth, to be exact. And now we have an election officially on the way, oh dear - unfortunate timing ...

The other day, I thought I would take a look at the Barnet Council page on Facebook - yes, fellow residents, there is one, check it out if you are really, really at a loss for something to do late one night. Maybe your neighbours are keeping you awake, for example. Anyway, on the Facebook page, a man who is very upset about potholes has been particularly active on there (can't really blame him, either) and now Ann Gry, my Facebook persona, has left her calling card, so to speak. To put a message on the wall, of course, you have to become a 'fan' of Barnet Council: how amusing. Let's see how many fans there are on May 6th, Lynne. And Mike.

I noticed at the weekend (when the wall is inaccessible, no doubt for fear of unwelcome comments) that in response, a guy had left a reply praising the management of ASB in Barnet. He is, I discovered, on a three month internship with Barnet Council, poor innocent boy. So Mrs Angry has now pointed out to him the interesting conclusion of a recent Metropolitan Police Service Public Attitude survey, in which only one per cent of those questioned strongly agreed that the police and council are dealing with the antisocial behaviour and crime issues that matter in Barnet.

Funnily enough, this survey came to my attention just last week when, in my capacity as pillar of the community,(yes, me), I was attending a Safer Neighbourhood panel training session in a local church hall. This evening did not get off to the best start, I have to say. When we arrived, there was an invitation to help ourselves to tea and biscuits.. A nice man came up to me with a plate of Wagonwheels: I said, oh: no, thanks, Wagonwheels always make me feel guilty ... 'Guilty?' he queried, and before I could stop myself I had let slip that in my wicked past I used to steal them from the nun who used to run our school tuck shop. Sister Philomena, a batty, ancient, stooping, almost blind nun, who never noticed what we were up to, luckily. I laughed. He didn't. A look of dismay passed over his face. And of course he turned out to be the police sergeant trainer who was leading the session. Throughout the evening I could see him sneaking looks at that terrible woman who used to mug elderly, sight impaired nuns. I felt truly ashamed , wanting to point out that actually, that was the beginning and end of my criminal activities. Sadly, I think I might be thrown off the ward panel now. Sorry, Dave. I'll get my coat.

This PC PC, or PC PS, rather, had strong views on how best to deal with antisocial behaviour. Guess what, you must engage with the perpetrators. And tell their mums. Apparently, the most effective condition of any ASBO, should you live in a borough where such methods are commonly used, ie not Barnet, is to state that the naughty boy is not allowed on a bus without his mother. I can see that this might be effective, bearing in mind the memorable time Mrs Angry encountered her son on the 125 bus in North Finchley, and he pretended he didn't know her. However, I do think that a more stringent approach to ASB might be appropriate when taking into account the victims of long running cases: less engagement, more enforcement.

Amongst the other interesting things we discussed that evening was the new way in which success in tackling crime will be reviewed in the future: in the past, the number of arrests would be counted, and then the police would be told to go and make some more, and the next year more again etc. Nowadays the government prefers that people's feelings and perceptions are assessed: policing is becoming more and more of a touchy feely political game, where the Home Office, for example, comes up with a brilliant sounding Policing Pledge, and then informs the police they must abide by its promises, whether or not the resources are available to do so. Silly, very silly.

It is also unfortunate that the promises politicians make about tackling antisocial behaviour are not accompanied by a requirement from local authorities to follow a standard approach to the issue. At the moment it seems that each authority varies widely in the practical management of ASB within its area of responsibility. In bargain basement Barnet, it seems, the issue has been kicked right to the bottom of the stairs.

It emerged at the training session that the body which is supposed to represent all of the Safer Neighbourhood panels in Barnet, and to act as a forum for discussion with the council, has seemingly not met for eighteen months. This, we were told by an elderly gentleman from Totteridge, with evident disapproval, was because some bolshy troublemakers had objected to the politicisation of the body by certain councillors. I'm looking at you, Coleman: step forward. Is this true?

Whatever the reason for this lack of engagement with the council, it means that interaction between the ward panels and the local authority is almost non existent, other than if your local councillors bother to attend the meetings, which I am glad to say they do in my ward. It appears to me that there is a worrying lack of interest from the Barnet administration in the maintenance of good relations with the Safer Neighbourhood teams and panels. If this is the case, it is no wonder that there is so little recognition in Barnet of the problems of ASB and other local crime issues. With feedback from local safer neighbourhood panels, the authority would be much better informed about the day to day reality of residents' experience of crime, and what they want done about it. Trouble is, Barnet doesn't want to know, doesn't want to hear. It's sticking its fingers in its ears and singing la la la very loudly instead.


Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

May be of interest?:

Mrs Angry said...

hello hello, welcome to Broken Barnet: can't find this - what was it about?