Ticking off the criminals

PUBLISHED: 16:08 05 October 2007 | UPDATED: 23:06 28 May 2010

A 10-year-old girl has been fined £40 for writing on her neighbour s wall with a wax crayon. Her mum is furious, not with her daughter but with the police who, she says, have over-reacted. All her daughter did, she pleads, was inscribe a small S on the

A 10-year-old girl has been fined £40 for writing on her neighbour's wall with a wax crayon.

Her mum is furious, not with her daughter but with the police who, she says, have over-reacted.

All her daughter did, she pleads, was inscribe a small 'S' on the wall.

The police, however, are unrepentant. They insist they were right to give the girl the fixed penalty, pointing out that it is their role to tackle reports of anti-social behaviour.

And that surely is the role of our boys in blue.

This sort of zero-tolerance policy, if adopted nationwide, would soon make it obvious to all vandals, and would-be vandals, that there is little future in intentionally damaging other people's property.

Ultimate result? Vandalism wiped out.

Now let's think a bit deeper about this.

At about the same time as the Lancashire girl was defacing her neighbour's wall, a 12-year-old boy in a south London school flicked a classmate with an elastic band and was subsequently charged with causing grievous bodily harm.

His mum was also furious, as her son appeared in court twice before the charge was finally dropped.

Another message to would-be thugs that elastic band attacks will not be tolerated? I think not.

Much as I accept the need to nip crime in the bud, I cannot help thinking we have a scenario here in which police are taking the easy options in order to hit their Government-imposed targets.

In reality these two police forces are doing little more than tick boxes when they should be tackling real crime and real criminals.

How can the police justify these two incidents at a time when people are frightened to walk the streets because of the real threat of hooligans and thieves, when countless burglaries remain unsolved (many uninvestigated), when drug dealers continue to ply their lethal trade and numerous motorists flout the law and cause so much danger on our roads by drink-driving.

The list is, of course virtually endless. We could all suggest areas in which police time could be better spent.

Ticking boxes tends not to solve problems. It merely creates lists and statistics.

And sadly, as well as in the battle against crime, this is becoming more and more

apparent in so many walks of life - particularly education, and the health service.

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