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Friday, August 19, 2005

 

Interesting times

There is a saying, purportedly of Chinese origin, ‘May you live in interesting times’ although more accurately attributed to a 1950’s science fiction story ‘U-Turn’ by Duncan H Munro (A.K.A Eric Frank Russell).

For the past month my family have been living in said ‘Interesting times’. Eldest stepdaughter held up with a knife by a junkie (She seems to have coped with it well, but we’ll just have to be there to catch her when and if she falls.). Youngest stepdaughter gets lost in the big city, having failed to catch the last bus home (last bus never arrived because, as we found out later, drunks had assaulted the driver.), sending both Mrs Sticker and my good self on a rescue mission, dodging drunks and raucous revellers until the early hours of the morning to recover youngest and friends. Mrs Sticker’s car got vandalised the same night after we had parked in our usual place. Drunks again.

About the only good thing that happened was getting a few decent days fishing.
Now I’m no teetotaller, nor do I begrudge anyone a tipple or two to loosen the old social sinews and lubricate their meagre wits, but I’m starting to get the impression that there is a Hogarthian nightmare about to descend.

We get enough problems with ‘binge drinking’ in our area at the moment, where people are so disappointed with their lives that turning their brains to slush and livers to pate with over consumption of alcoholic beverages is the only alternative. Never have so many people needed to go out, grow up and get lives instead of dissolving theirs with alcopops (Well, at least since the era of the Gin shop and the odd victory celebration, or should that be decerebration.). The hope that by extending drinking hours we will start making the long transition towards a continental ‘Café culture’ is unlikely to happen. The only future I can see is the drunks coming at you at all times of the day and night.

Maybe we should let nature take it’s course and let the drunks edit themselves out of the human race by refusing hospital entry to anyone who is in a state of obvious intoxication. You get drunk; you smash yourself or anyone else up – no hospital treatment. Don’t put paramedics at risk by sending them to dodgy calls where the patient has a known drink problem. Call it harsh, call it inhuman if you like, but how about this; let the aggressive drunks wipe themselves out. Think of it as evolution in action.

Some of the men folk in our street are debating rough vigilante action and ‘instant justice’, which might seem the solution in the short term, but may prove counter productive. My argument is that the ‘Baseball bat’ solution may seem attractive, but there are more effective and longer-term solutions, which should be applied instead. Besides, why put yourself at risk by picking a fight with an aggressive bunch of Chavs who have no moral scruples? There are plenty of examples where ‘Have a go’ has turned into ‘Man murdered by gang of youths’. These guys don’t fight fair. You either have to hunt them down and take them out (Unlikely & illegal) or band together and help the law put the little sods in E Wing where they’ll soon learn not to be the one to pick the soap up.

Bearing all the aforementioned in mind, my neighbours and I mooted the following possible solutions:

First solution; late night neighbourly chats on doorsteps or ‘neighbourhood watch’.

Pro:
Deters malefactors by the sheer physical presence of people on the streets.
Provides first line alert for entire street.
Keeps neighbours talking and working out local differences face to face.

Con:
Difficult to maintain impetus what with holidays, kids etc.
Disparate nature of neighbourhood.
Things to keep talking about.
Having to stay up as late as the stupid drunken cretins.
Personal anxieties by neighbours worried about ‘intimidation’.
Rain & missing the footie on the box.
Heavy tea / cocoa consumption.
Too much like ‘curtain twitching’.

Second solution; Oppose extended and late licences for local pubs / clubs.

Pro:
Moves problem elsewhere & changes drunks ‘migration’ patterns, missing our street.
May make troublemakers use taxis & private hire vehicles to get home.
May make potential troublemakers stay at home with grog from the ‘offie’.

Con:
More temptation for mischief on longer route home.
Neighbours (And myself) like the odd late tipple.
Might bring more drunks down the street.
Get a reputation as a bunch of killjoys and become bigger targets than we are.
Not likely to succeed against vested interests.

Third solution; Webcams and dummy cams with signs.

Pro:
Webcams easy & cheap to set up and run.
Fake cameras & signs may act as visual deterrent.
Identifying malefactors & incidents is made easier, making successful prosecutions more likely.
DSL Networking between neighbours ‘always-on’ kit means administration can be split / shared.

Con:
Webcams etc. cannot prevent & can only record incidents in small area.
Obvious Webcams might prove a target for vandalism.
Fake cameras on lampposts might be a target for vandalism.
Fake CCTV in this area might annoy council (Or is this a pro?).
Heavier network demands on personal systems.

I am a strong proponent of the Webcam and fake camera solution, which might just improve matters. Have already discussed it with several of my Internet – savvy neighbours and we are checking out wireless and non-wireless solutions. Some good low light level kit out there too. At the very least, we could positively identify the little shits for a private prosecution if the Police / CPS won’t / can’t act.

Any of you Coppers out there care to comment?

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Exasperated expatriate expostulations all the way from British Columbia, Canada. As if anyone really cared. Oh, I also watch Icelandic Volcanoes and seismic activity. Don't ask me why.

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