We don’t want to live in lawless Wild West
Express & Star assistant editor Sally-Anne Youll asks is there really such a thing as ‘minor crime’?
Picture the scene...a passer-by spots a truck and its owner working nearby.
It’s loaded with valuable tools, needed for the owner’s trade, plus a spot of lunch in the glove box and a jacket or two.
It’s unlocked. He jumps in and speeds off, congratulating himself on a lucrative few minutes’ work.
Another scene...a 12-year-old boy excitedly posts a picture on Instagram of the sparkly new bike he’s had for his birthday.
A bike his parents have worked hard to save up for. He is clearly chuffed with his new present, and a few days later sets off with his mate to try it out.
On their way to the park they pass a group of lads, one of them spots an opportunity, follows them and takes the bike, leaving the 12-year-old birthday boy distraught.
Both of these crimes will be classed as ‘minor crime’; and compared to murder, rape and serious assaults they are. But is there really such a thing as ‘minor crime’?
Every crime is life-changing to some degree.
Let’s look at the consequences: The hard-working dad who left his van, loaded with expensive tools he has worked hard to pay for, unattended for just a moment.
He is now left without a job, without transport, without a means to provide for his family. His livelihood has been snatched from under his nose.
The young lad who has lost his bike feels he has let his parents down, blames himself, and obviously has no bike. He is terrified and too traumatised to go the park with his mates again. He loses trust, confidence and is afraid to pass groups of youths on the street.
The victims have lost far more than the thieves have gained.
And yet these crimes are not given top priority. They are way down the list. Victims are often waiting for a police response. Eventually too much time has passed and they may end up filed under ‘no further action’.
Meanwhile, crime breeds crime and these offenders, fuelled by the knowledge they’ve got away with it once, will only go on to commit more offences, with potentially much more serious consequences than those outlined here.
One simple thing could have stopped these opportunistic criminals in their tracks – a solitary bobby on the beat or passing patrol car might have made them think twice about what they were about to do.
Police forces say tackling the fear of crime is a priority, as well as dealing with the crime itself.
And yet the number of officers is falling massively across the UK.
Meanwhile, there is a mounting anger and resentment and more and more people are moving towards taking the law into their own hands.
We already have a growing band of paedophile hunters, whose success is spurring further groups into action.
If we are not careful, we will end up moving towards a lawless society where vigilantes rule and the lines between right and wrong are increasingly blurred.
This cannot happen; people need to be reassured that all crime will be taken seriously and dealt with speedily.
We need police on our streets.
Otherwise we will end up living like the Wild West.