Michael Laws has called for ‘draconian, central measures’ to fight gangs; he wants the army called out. He wants military force let loose on our streets to engage in combat with an undefined enemy. Where are we? Iraq? That way lies dictatorship, military rule, the end of our freedom.
If we don’t want kids going into gangs and committing petty crimes that sometimes grow into more serious crime, we need to change the conditions that lead them into these lives. These kids are not born bad; they are not evil. They are ordinary human beings, and every human being has a propensity to commit anti-social or criminal acts, for some individuals it is greater than others. That can’t be changed, what can be changed is the conditions that see propensity realised.
Kids from happy homes, from ‘good suburbs’ with good urban design and quality housing, with parents in work, who get a good education, have a decent chance of a good future, and live in communities where people decent incomes rarely commit crimes. It is the poor kids from the poorly built suburbs with the bad schools and no jobs that commit crime. And, mostly, they commit them against other members of those deprived communities.
If we want to stop crime we need to change those communities. And the Labour-led governments have done an excellent job in that regard more jobs, higher pay for low income people, more money for health and education, Working for Families, more social workers and more cops etc. But the street kids of today had their formative years during the high unemployment, high crime era of the 1990s. The conditions of the 1990s created a generation of poor kids who missed out on a decent childhood, on getting a decent education. Turning the small percentage of them who turn to crime is hard work that needs resourcing.
Making sure the next generation has a better childhood has been Labour’s paramount success, and one the Left can continue to build on. That’s the real solution to reducing the number of criminals on our streets: not creating them.