It’s always the way. You go away for a week and then something big pops up. In this case, the largest riots in 25 years which hit the UK out of nowhere. UKCrimeStats received a record increase in traffic again – the public want to know what’s going on around them but we don’t have this data yet. We will have the August data (which will include these riots) uploaded a few days after it is released – which is usually late in the following month, September. I’m curious to see how the constituency crime heat maps tally with the known trouble areas, how the known neigbhourhoods figures change and if we see a consequent spike in registered Robberies – assuming these fall under Robbery. Arson would fall under Other.
So here are my thoughts;
1. Sir Hugh Orde – can’t take any criticism. Nor did he – or any other senior officers – say much to defend the officers on the front line for the first few days, when they needed it most. My cynical political antennae tells me this was because they were jockeying for position to take over the Met, I hope I’m wrong. What really upset him is David Cameron appearing to be less than satisfied – so he has attacked the PM 3 times in 3 days.
2. Facts and Time. How does a police bullet get stuck in a police radio and how long does it take to establish whether a known suspect fired a shot at you or not? There may be a good reason for all of this but it’s taking ages to find out. It may be time to consider automatic filming from mini digital cams for armed officers.
3. The argument for Bill Bratton is starting to look overwhelming. I’ve got great respect for those officers on the streets and everything they’ve done in such trying circumstances. You can’t help but be moved by the anonymous blog of Inspector Winter. For all that, there’s no way one can look back and say this was all an overwhelming success for the forces of law and order. In some cases, Officers do seem to have stood back until they could have overwhelming force on their side. I don’t envy the danger their jobs place them in, but has the balance of risk-taking to risk aversion slipped too far?
It’s perhaps to early to say, bu to my mind thus far, the management of these events have been a failure of strategic leadership from the top, not commitment from the bottom. A fresh pair of eyes with no vested interest in the status quo would do the Met the power of good. And Bratton would have been communicating strongly from Day 1 as well as defending his Officers.
4. Mobiles and social networking are the crimefighters friend. Yes, blackberry messenger, twitter and facebook had a hand in bringing rioters together, quickly. But they have left easy to follow up traces all over the internet and on the servers of mobile phone operators. A safe bet too that facial recognition software is not far behind as most people have photos of themselves on the internet somewhere now, particularly on social networking sites. So social networking actually makes riots like these impossible to get away with on a repeat basis. There do seem already to have been a lot of arrests.
5. The riots are nothing to do with the cuts – a preposterous argument.
6. Vigilantism is not the same as protecting your property – I’m a bit dismayed by some responses to local groups like the Sikh community in Southend who self-organised to get a few bodies together to show a presence and shield their shops when the Police can’t get there in time. What’s wrong with that?
Vigilantism is only vigilantism when extra-legal punishment is meted out to alleged criminals and that is clearly wrong.