Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Crime fears grow

Many people were shocked over the weekend as news spread regarding the assault on the GSLP leader Fabian Picardo, Mr. Picardo who was with a friend in the marina bay area when they were assaulted requiring them to receive hospital treatment. Without knowing the full circumstances of the incident peoples mind have automatically turned to another high-profile political figure Daniel Feetham the justice minister who only late last year was also attacked and repeatedly stabbed in the street causing him very serious injury.

What is happening in Gibraltar? This is a question I have asked many times particularly regarding soaring crime - particularly those statistics of a violent nature, including many other instances where crime more often than not has raised its ugly head in society.

Public shocked and horrified

We all know thanks to Panorama that over 75% of all crime is fueled by either drugs or alcohol probably both, these are undisputed figures that we published 18 months ago. We are convinced however that the situation is much worse and that our 75% estimation figure suggests, it is probably much higher, as this point is continuously confirmed by the never ending incidents of crime, particularly those relating to violence!

Over the last 72 hours there has been a deluge of comments coming from concerned members of the public. People have been 'horrified and shocked' to hear of the latest crime of violence involving Mr. Picardo. Although incidents of this type in the ocean village, marina bay area are not isolated cases, many people have pointed out and complained that similar incidents are frequent particularly at weekends, which has led some to say 'they cannot understand why nothing is done about it'

Many are also complaining at the lack of police presence in the area in question down there in the marina, it's true that the police cannot be in every street corner and that is a fact, but they do have to target hot spots and areas where there is a probability that trouble will erupt. Which brings me to a point I raised last week when officers were removed from crime work' removing officers from front line crime related work is not an effective manner to tackle crime, there are many concerns regarding various crime issues that are continuously repeated in public surveys, reducing police manpower resources can only weaken the police response in dealing with these concerns effectively'

This point is where I fear and strongly suspect that policing now a days involves many political connotations that I believe hampers and obstructs the way in which the police go about tackling crime and its main causes effectively, which I have said on numerous occasions is drug and alcohol related!

If you consider that this last weekend alone their were 11 criminal assaults on people with 8 people arrested by the police, this must send out a dangerous signal, it is a mere reflection of the disturbing scale of this problem which I believe is rapidly getting out of control!

Many people are now starting to realise just how serious crime has become, a point we have been highlighting in Panorama for years. Some people have asked me 'why all this increase in criminality? One of the main causes I have highlighted has to be drugs and the fact that drugs including alcohol abuse have been pathetically handled by this government! Other people on the other hand have asked 'what is the police force doing to combat crime and to create a deterrent? I'd rather the police speak for themselves on this one and they should, they should be open and honest with the public and hopefully not come out with things like 'crime is not as bad as the uk, Spain or even baghdad'. From a Gibraltar perspective no one should be interested what is happening anywhere else on the planet, we are an eye drop of a nation, practically incomparable in my view with the vast majority of places when it comes to crime and the manner we should be tackling this serious social problem!

When you get so many members of the public who have said in the last few days alone that the police are not even being seen on the streets and querying where are police officers being deployed, than someone has to stop and listen? This is not leo olivero complaining or criticising, it is the public who are genuinely concerned, who want to know what is happening, not me, because I know! Many have asked 'what has become of policemen on the beat'? To be fair I see plenty of officers out patrolling, although I fear not enough of them to meet today's hungry demands for police presence!

Gibraltar has failed in its fight on drugs

I have said countless times and will never tire of saying that Gibraltar has failed regarding its fight on drugs. Drug abuse is problem directly linked to many other serious social issues like anti-social behaviour, under age drinking, burglaries, theft and violence. Unless the demand for drugs is effectively attacked, supplies will always be found, sadly the drugs market has much more young people than ever falling into the trap of

Drug-taking and alcohol abuse, this is a fact!

Another measure of the seriousness of local crime at the moment is the fact that 75% of the new prison is occupied with inmates, I know it was built for that reason but it is a clear statement on how criminals are filling up this recently opened custodial institution .

Another disturbing note is the amount of under 16's caught up in crime; these are the young children of the rock, youngsters that have been arrested for a wide range of offences. Many of these young juveniles have been charged for serious offences like burglaries, arson, drugs and even driving motor vehicles whilst obviously under

Age. These kids are our future! 'are we really looking after them? I mean society, not just the police, because the police can never do it on their own!

Fear of crime explained

I was asked only yesterday to define the 'fear of crime' I told this lady who asked that this was something that was difficult to define, basically because it can refer to a range of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs regarding an individual's vulnerability and those of her loved ones and the wider community. The fear of crime can also refer to people's concerns about general crime levels, also their beliefs regarding their risk of being a victim of any crime and the risk of that of their loved ones. I also think the fear of crime is an emotional response that a person associates with crime itself!

Who is to blame?

Many people like to think that it is the government or even the police who are to blame for the rise in crime and crime itself, although the government do have a major part to play and as I have said many times have been hopeless in tackling one of the main causes of crime 'drugs' but in my view it's not entirely their fault or the police!

The government has a function and even knowing they have never been 100% effective far from it, they do play their part so do the police. Ask yourself 'what or who gives power to the government? The people of course! So think about crime and ask who is responsible, the best answer I could come up with is everyone! Have you ever known anyone that stole something for fun? Who broke someone else property but it wasn't a big deal? Those are crimes that are very minor but wrong-is-wrong, but it happens most days!

Our society in many aspects has adopted a state of mind where minor things are ok. Speeding, bad driving, anti-social behaviour fueled by drugs or alcohol appear to be acceptable to many, even nicking your coworkers pen is ok, no big deal. I believe people who get used to behaving with complete disregard to others rights and property are criminals at some level or other.

We have all made mistakes and learned from them, became more respectful of others property and life. Sadly, not everyone learns and tries to change the wrong things they've done. However it gets worse when the get hooked on abusive substances recreational or otherwise and continue to do the same things or worse because it's not a big deal. Society does not appear to care or hasn't cared much in the past, now people are taking note! But the minds of these people mostly young, grows up based on those negative experiences, yet all time society is watching with others with their heads deep into the sand!

Apply all this to someone young, kids who haven't had the right guidance from parents, and have grown up with all these negative social norms in their lives. These are the young people of Gibraltar who are going to be our future. Disturbingly many young people may have had their futures determined by all the negative social experiences whilst growing up and in the kind of home environment I have been describing.

The foundation of each person is acquired during their early years. What they see, hear, get away with and so on, this is the foundation that will determine who they become in the future, more importantly it also translates into what kind of society we will also have in the future, which at the moment is a rather a frightening thought!

Fear of crime has an incredibly corrosive effect on individuals and an even entire community, reducing the fear of crime has always been an important police objective and I'm sure it still is! It is not too difficult to find where the fear comes from. In a place like Gibraltar it's not so difficult to determine the causes of crime either, which itself triggers in people that fear of crime, by tackling the causes you eliminate the problem.

One advice I would like to give the police; over the past few years but particularly over the last few days I have spoken with numerous people in person, by phone and over the internet, I suggest to the police that they reconnect with the public and sound out for themselves the concerns on this issue, they may learn one or two things like I did?

Leo Olivero

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