Violence unlikely to resolve UK rioting

A United States street crime expert, enlisted by British Prime Minister David Cameron to help curb gangs after this week’s riots, warned on Saturday that solving the problem was more complex than just arresting people.

As police turned out in force in London on Saturday in a bid to prevent any repeat of England’s worst riots in decades, former New York police commissioner Bill Bratton agreed to visit Britain in coming months to give advice.

Anger exploded on the streets of north London’s neighbourhood of Tottenham at the weekend, resulting in the worst outbreak of rioting seen in years. This followed the fatal shooting of a 29-year-old man by police earlier in the week.

Bratton, a key figure in imposing “zero tolerance” policing in New York and cutting crime after the 1992 Los Angeles riots, said the solution was robust but community-based policing to nip gang culture in the bud.

“You can’t just arrest your way out of the problem,” he told the New York Times in an interview. “It’s going to require a lot of intervention and prevention strategies and techniques.”

Bratton said the British government was looking for “the idea of, what has been the American experience in dealing with the gang problem and, what has worked for us and not worked for us and how that can be applied”.

Looking for answers
A week on from the initial flare-up of violence, which spiralled into four days of rioting that left five people dead, Britain has been searching for answers as to how the country sank to such lawlessness.

Downing Street confirmed late on Friday that Cameron had telephoned Bratton and asked him to visit, adding that he would be giving advice during a series of meetings in the autumn, all on an unpaid basis.

Finance minister George Osborne backed Bratton’s focus on social issues and said he would not back down from planned police budget cuts which Britain’s opposition and senior police officers have criticised.

“We are committed to the plan we have set out for police reform,” he told the BBC. “We want to use the advice of people like Bill Bratton to really tackle some of the deep-seated social issues like gang culture.”

John Tully, chairperson of the Metropolitan Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in London, criticised the decision to bring Bratton on board.

“Although he has a glittering record across in the States, it’s a different style of policing. The gang culture’s different,” the BBC quoted Tully as saying.

Football fears
The start of the English Premier League football season on Saturday was likely to be a new drain on police resources amid concerns that violence could flare-up again this weekend, though there were no initial signs of trouble.

Tottenham’s match against visitors Everton has been postponed as the North London area, where the first riots flared up a week ago after the shooting of a local man by police, will not be ready in time to ensure safe conditions.

The number of officers on duty was more than doubled to 16 000 earlier this week and Home Secretary Theresa May said the extra numbers would stay on the beat until further notice.

England has had three quieter days following the wave of violence which has led to more than 2 100 arrests in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham and several other cities.

London’s Metropolitan Police said on Saturday they had charged a man in his 20s with robbing a Malaysian student during the riots in London in a shocking incident that was watched by millions of people on the internet.

Reece Donovan, from Romford, a town just east of London, will appear in court later on Saturday.

Victim Asyraf Haziq Rosli was filmed being helped up after his jaw was broken during unrest in Barking, East London, only for the men who aided him to then empty his rucksack.

Courts have been working through the night to process cases involving alleged rioters, who hail from a large variety of backgrounds although about a fifth are under 18.

Calls for those convicted to be stripped of their state welfare handouts and booted out of publicly owned housing were receiving growing popular support.

Wandsworth Council in South London became the first to serve an eviction notice on a tenant which will come into effect if her son is convicted.

Meanwhile a Polish woman who was pictured leaping to safety from her burning home in the South London suburb of Croydon on Monday in one of the most striking images from the rioting said she thought English society was “sick”.

“I thought London was a civilised society full of gentlemen and ladies — but it’s not like that. England has become a sick society,” shop assistant Monika Konczyk (32) who moved to Britain five months ago, told the Sun newspaper. — Reuters

Danny Kemp
Danny Kemp
The Hague bureau chief, @AFP. Ex-Brussels, London, Paris, Bangkok, Islamabad and Hong Kong

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