An interesting AP article on the way that criminal youth gangs in London and elsewhere – the vanguard of the recent street violence and looting within Britain – have consciously emulated their transatlantic cousins from Los Angeles:
They talk in a street patois shaped by U.S. rap lyrics, use noms de guerre lifted straight from American gangster films and crime dramas, and choose such icons as Don Corleone, Al Pacino’s Scarface or Baltimore ganglord Stringer Bell of “The Wire” TV series as their avatars on social-networking sites.
“These teenage gangsters are creating their own criminal worlds, and in their minds it’s very much an Americanized world. When they talk about the police, it’s ‘the Feds,’ or ‘The 5-0,’ as in Hawaii 5-0,” said Carl Fellstrom, an expert on England’s gangs and author of a recent book on the topic, “Hoods.”
British law enforcement authorities admit that, until only a few years ago, they sought to minimize the scale and violent potential of their homegrown gangs. They promoted their preferred label of “delinquent youth groups” and billed full-blooded street gangs as an American phenomenon.
In the wake of the August riots — when gangs used text-messaging to deploy break-in artists to breach steel-shuttered shops — politicians now use the “G” word pointedly.
The PM has recruited retired LA police commander William Bratton to advice the local constabulary:
Bratton previously commanded the police in Boston and New York, where his tactics were credited with greatly reducing gang-related bloodshed. Cameron and Bratton are expected to promote ideas pioneered 15 years ago in Boston by Harvard academic-turned-crime fighter David Kennedy.
Kennedy’s “Boston strategy” seeks public meetings of police, probation workers, welfare providers, community residents, and a target audience of gang members. The discussions have been credited with delivering sharp drops in gang-related killings in Boston, Chicago and Cincinnati.
“It is now absolutely demonstrable that there is a better way to do this. There is a 15-year history in the United States in city after city after city. We don’t think that London can fix its gang problem. We know it can fix it,” Kennedy said.
Local police officers apparently are resistant to the idea of importing American counter-gang expertise, but the Boston strategy was relatively successful in Glasgow:
Karen McCluskey, a director of Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, in 2008 held her first Boston-style mass meeting with gang members in a Glasgow courthouse. She said gang members were shocked to learn the wealth of intelligence police held about them, appeared unaware of the range of help on offer, and were shamed by stories of how their behavior had terrified their neighborhoods.
McCluskey said her colleagues were skeptical that American anti-gang techniques could be imported meaningfully to Scotland, then watched Glasgow’s gang-related violent crimes fall 46 percent in the past three years because of them.
In other related news, David Cameron has sought means to eliminate dole payments to those caught rioting, which only seems natural on this side of the pond, but which faces both political opposition and systemic issues in the UK:
(Experts) are warning the move could be expensive and difficult to achieve. Ian Mulheirn of the Social Market Foundation said: “It is really hard to identify people and remove their benefits in an automated system. Doing that is extremely expensive, and will cost more money than it saves.”
This is not about saving money, of course, but rather executing penalties: The welfare net in Britain is really quite generous and even “automated”, which is a little chilling to read. Anyone who receives such payment while demonstrating contempt for society more broadly has implicitly violated his side of the social compact, and the British tax payer is right to question continued transfer payments from the productive class to the destructive one.
Cameron bewails a moral collapse in Britain’s underclasses, and it’s worthy of some introspection as to whether the dole itself is a root of that collapse. It’s time to ask whether a social welfare system designed to help people through rough patches has instead by time, extension and usage become the actual enabler of subcultural dysfunction: What was designed to be enough to keep out wind and water has become too much to engender any motivation for self-betterment but never enough, in a society whose national bonds of shared identity and faith have slipped, to satisfy consumerist desires.
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