jim travers | 14.01.2009 19:41 | Culture
Time and time again we have seen various initiatives to curb antisocial behaviour, but to date nothing appears to work, well in the long term of things.The Gardai try to do their best,sometimes with great success but in most cases the antisocial behaviour returns over time and communities will go back into the same process of trying to reduce and eliminate similar forms of antisocial behaviour.The usual procedures will happen, community meetings, elected representatives writing to various ministers, while the Gardai tell us they know who the perpetrators of the antisocial behaviour activities are, but are powerless to to take constructive action that will resolve the problem permanently. The problem just keeps going on and on, if its not acts of antisocial behaviour against residents property then its the stoning of buses, the robbing of cars or the assault of innocent people as they make their way home. There appears to be a pattern that is linked to the continuing and sometimes escalating problems associated with antisocial behaviour.
1. The inability of the law to work when it is needed
2. The lack of effective legislation that enables judges to address in a meaningful way the problems associated with antisocial behaviour. This is a political responsibility that has been show to be lax when it comes to enacting laws that allow judges to act in the interests of law and order and the rights of the victims of crime.
3. A change in the law that places more emphasis on the rights of the victims of antisocial behaviour and the need for victims to have a more direct say in the punishment and fines given to the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour.
4.A greater emphasis in law placed on parental control. This has been the most obvious problem associated with juvenile behaviour since the early eighties.
5. A new system of penalties where both victims and the state are compensated for the antisocial activities perpetrated by those who promote or take part in antisocial activities. This could be done by direct financial compensation by the criminals to the victims or through a reduction in tax credits for those who are working or a reduction in social welfare payments for those who are unemployed.This is done until the full cost of pursuing someone through the courts is fully paid off.In this way the victims of antisocial behaviour are compensated while the state recovers its costs from the perpetrators, when pursuing through the courts the real cost to the state in pursuing those who who take part or promote antisocial activities.
The real problem with antisocial behaviour is that nobody really gives a shit. What can the Gardai do, lock you up, ask a judge to give you a fine,locking you up means a cost to the state therefore the state does everything in its power to keep you out of jail.Community service, some of these criminals cannot even spell community never mind play a meaningful role in it.But if we hit them where it really hurts them (in their pockets) then things will become different.Adults falling out of pubs, pissing in corners or throwing their chip bags around the road when they decide they are full of both food and beer, only to find a Garda standing close by with as little options in his hand as a man with no hands. Take their names and addresses and send them a summons to appear in court only to find the judge feeling sorry for them or a social worker or solicitor pleading insanity, social deprivation as the thugs smile and walk out of court fired up and ready to tackle the next Garda that ruins his or her social evening.
The problems of antisocial behaviour in our society is caused by our political representatives inability to constructively bring forward legislation that addresses these problems head on. We can have all the Garda and community based activities and solutions placed before us in order to rectify the problems, but if the perpetrators of antisocial behaviour can be seen to walk away without any real and meaningful penalties that address the needs of the victims then nothing really has been done. When a bus driver receives a broken jaw because some thug decides he wants to disembark from the bus before its official bus stop and the same thug finds both legal and care support(social workers) available to him or her on the FREE, while the bus driver sits at home recovering from his or her ordeal and then finds the thug goes away with a fine and a suspended sentience, then we have to ask the question;Where is justice?
In my case it took over twenty years for the Gardai to finally nail down the culprits of antisocial behaviour against my family.My family lived in terror as two neighbouring families conducted acts of antisocial behaviour by using others to carry our their racial and intimidating hatred of other residents on our road.
All the ASBO’s and talking done nothing over the years simply because our neighbours changed their modes of operation when they were faced with the possibility of the Gardai knocking on their doors. They even went as far as inventing damage to their own property and motor vehicles in order to throw suspicion away from them. When a residents car was damaged, their cars were damaged. They even had other residents convinced that they were also victims of antisocial behaviour. What many residents did not know is that the perpetrators of the car damage and thefts were friend of the same neighbours living on our road. Its like the old saying “Make yourself a victim of crime and you can blend in with all the other victims of crime”.
What we need is effective control and responsibility.
Some people shudder with thoughts of Communism and dictatorship when you tell them that more control and responsibility is required. Tell that to the victims of antisocial behaviour who are either lying in a hospital bed and a t deaths door or an elderly couple who are so frightened of the dark that they lock themselves away in their bedrooms until daylight gives them some sense of security once more. We have to be prepared to give up something in order to fully address problems associated with antisocial behaviour. Some day we ourselves will grow old and will have to lock ourselves away because we know the Grdai cannot stand outside our hall doors both day and night. We know our families may not be there at a time when we really need them, when all the activities begin. I know, both my wife and I have watched from behind our bedroom window, as our children lay asleep and our neighbours with the help of their friend in Greenpark conducted a campaign of antisocial behaviour against us over a period of twenty years.
If we really want to solve this current modern phenomena of antisocial behaviour then unfortunately we will have to be prepared to give us a very small part of our civil liberties in order to make life better for us in the future. Civil liberty campaigners will strongly argue against such proposals but the same civil liberties campaigners conducted a similar campaign way back in the early seventies and what we have now is as a result of those liberties being abused by those who scream when their civil liberties are violated. The Gardai will tell you on the side that they are fighting a loosing battle, simple because the courts do not have the power to address the problem in a way that make the perpetrators of crime fully pay for their actions.
Buses will continue to be hijacked, cars will continue to be stolen and burnt out,decent, honest and law abiding citizens will be subjected to abuse and assault by people the law is unable to punish in a real and meaningful manner that will give the victims of crime a reason for finding comfort in the law of the land.
Its time to take real action, its time to throw the full force of the law behind the victims of crime and away from those who use the law to continue their attacks against society.
The time for change has come, its time politicians from all our political parties came together as one voice and say ‘enough is enough, we stand as one, this far and no further’. It took the killing of Veronica Guerin before our political leaders realised they themselves and the state was in danger of being overtaken by criminals. Politicians must begin to realise that they enjoy a freedom in Ireland that is envied by many leaders throughout the world; a freedom to move about the country with relative ease without having to look over their shoulders.
That freedom is under threat by the escalating rise of antisocial behaviour and the individual lack of concern for the welfare and safety of fellow citizens.It is better the political establishment took the unwelcome but necessary steps to curb the rise in antisocial behaviour before they find themselves like animals in a zoo, free but confined within their own space of human existence.
We either address this problem head-on or we will eventually find ourselves living in a society that mirror images a country we find so much allegiance and admiration, America.They call America the free world,the land of the free, is it really free when it is necessary to carry or possess a gun in order to protect yourself?
We all love America, so long as it is over there.
Antisocial behaviour is a problem that will not be solved by convening meetings and having the Gardai patrol our streets until the problem appears to subside.It is a problem that needs to be addresses by the highest of authority(Dail Eireann)and in turn filtered down into communities where real results can be seen and felt by every citizen in the country.
The time for change is now, are our politicians rally up for the challenge?