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From: The Socialist issue 388, 14 April 2005: MG Rover: The Ugly Face of Capitalism

Search site for keywords: ASBOs - Coventry - Socialist - Crime - Young people - Election - Labour - Tories - Liberals - Working-class - Police - Youth

Anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs) A socialist approach

ALL THE main parties in this election are focusing on crime, and in particular anti-social behaviour by young people.
Working-class people are the most likely to be the victims of crime and anti-social behaviour and are therefore understandably concerned about them.
But the knee-jerk policies of New Labour, Tories and Liberals do nothing to seriously tackle them.
On the contrary, it is their 'anti-social' policies of cuts and privatisation which make the situation worse. Below we feature three examples of the approach that the Socialist Party has taken to these issues.

Community action in Coventry

ST MICHAELS Ward has the highest unemployment in Coventry. Outside the city's main areas investment in community and youth facilities has suffered and issues involving young people and local residents have grown.

Rob Windsor, Coventry

A year ago these problems came to my attention when I was representing St Michaels as a Socialist councillor.

A group of young people were playing ball games and bothering residents including a man with a heart condition. Local residents were fuming. There was a clear possibility of an "us and them" situation between them and the youth involved.

I helped set up a meeting attended by over 35 local residents. The police and community wardens also came.

The meeting was angry but constructive, partly due to the tone we set that there was a lack of local facilities for young people.

It would have been easy just to demand that the police turned up heavy-handedly but instead we used the local warden service to approach the youth.

They did so and discussed with them - one young lad was excluded from school and had nothing to occupy him.

The wardens helped set up a course for him and helped occupy others.

The police were involved and their presence increased but not in a heavy-handed way. Within a month the problems had dissipated in that area.

There were sporadic problems and news that problems had shifted to other streets but for a good few months the area was quieter.

A heavy-handed approach would not have got this result - it may even have exacerbated it.

Stretched police resources would in any case have made such an approach impossible to sustain.

Whilst New Labour's Anti Social Behaviour Bill had some measures that working-class people would support such as closure of crack houses and measures against fly-tipping, it helped to create a myth that deep rooted social problems can be tackled by bits of paper and bureaucracy.

In reality the prisons are overcrowded and the courts can't cope. And the more ASBOs are used for low-key offences, the more swamped the system to enforce them will become.

But New Labour spinners try to use these issues to grab votes and deflect people's attention away from the real robbers, like the capitalists who run Ford stealing the livelihoods of Coventry workers.

Socialists have to be careful - simply blaming capitalism won't help communities having to cope with the "Do what you like and stuff the others" approach initiated by Thatcher and less hope for a secure future for working-class youth.

The community should be really 'empowered' to deal with these issues by strong residents' and community groups that would seek to help young people as well as deal with problems.






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