Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Crime on the Streets

It's fair to say that I've lived an interesting and varied life, including a few exploits that some might consider to be hazardous to one's health.
During the days of the Iron Curtain, I trudged the streets of Moscow, loitered outside the walls of the Lubyanka Prison, and chatted with some of the locals. In Warsaw, during a state visit by Kruschev, I and a companion took a short cut across the main square one night, oblivious to the fact that it was ringed by tanks and soldiery. We got away with it.
In Caracas, Venezuela, I was there when they had one of their routine revolutions and our way to the airport was impeded by burning cars and tanks.
And in the Cite de Soleil, Port au Prince, Haiti, I was given a guided tour at dead of night across the city.
All of the above I accomplished with little more than the odd frisson of alarm.
But one thing that I will no longer do is to walk the streets of a British town at night.
This is a terrible indictment of a nation that not long ago could be held up as an example of the rule of law and order.
Almost daily there are instances of law abiding citizens being robbed, bludgeoned and murdered for no reason on the streets. These instances are, of course, often recorded by the CCTV cameras and presumably these records are of solace to the victim and his or her family but since the perpetrators often record the act on their mobile phone, getting it on film would seem to be a badge of honour, rather like the piffling ASBO.
But little else is to be expected of a government who have unleashed 24 hour binge drinking on their citizens when a glance at the behaviour of soccer supporters abroad should have given them an idea of what to expect. And the so-called “Barmy Army” that follow cricket, so they say, are not much better.
And a court system that can throw a little old lady in jail for refusing to pay her local taxes on account of the service she is getting are happy to give a vapid, useless habitual drug user like Pete Docherty yet another chance when by rights they should have locked him up and thrown away the key. But I forget – he's a role model and a celebrity, so all must be forgiven for, as one judge had the audacity to say to him, “I like your music.”
Britain is a wonderful country for the tourist but all the entry ports should carry a Government Health warning.
“Have a good time – but be sure you're safely in bed by early evening. 'Cos we can't guarantee your safety after dark. Where do you think you are?”
This could be followed by a listing of the major world cities where it is safe to walk the streets at night – and this now includes New York.


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