John's Jottings for June 2002

John Ward

Please note: these Jottings are purely personal comment, and do not necessarily or directly represent the policy of either the Conservative Party or the Conservative Group on Medway Council.

Disruption: the "Yobbo Culture" and Travellers

One of the greatest social and community problems in this country in recent years has been the apparently vast increase in disruptive activity. The two main ingredients in this situation are the local vandals and the travelling communities. As a local Councillor I frequently receive complaints about both of these categories operating in the Medway area and, even more specifically, within Horsted ward occasionally.

Owing to the nature of this subject I shall be pulling no punches in this month's Jottings, so be warned: John is on his soap-box!

There are two distinct problems here, though there is also an underlying cause that in effect encourages both groups of offenders (for offenders they certainly are).

The oft-called "yobbo culture" has come about as a result of the skewed perception by a large number of young people that to have a criminal record is a Good Thing™.

This sub-culture has not only been allowed to grow within modern society, but has been actively encouraged, not only by socialist ideology (which bears a lot of the blame) but also by some parents who aid and abet their children's dubious—and all too often criminal—activities. Both here in Medway and elsewhere in the country there are numerous first-hand witness accounts of such parental collusion.

Much of this seems to be the result of the increasing use of illegal substances, which has after all been responsible for kick-starting many young (and sometimes not-so-young) people's criminal careers. Once that happens, it becomes relatively easy to continue on the same path.

I have no quick-fix answer to the drug problem, and indeed have some difficulty understanding why anyone would waste their time, money and well-being on such non-essentials. Then again, the same obviously applies to, say, tobacco-based products. They are now well known to be hard drugs (even more addictive than heroin) and all they do is filth up one's insides and make one stink on the outside. Pointless, yes: but that doesn't stop widespread tobacco addiction. Therefore it is a much broader and deeper malaise with society as a whole that tends to make drug-based activities acceptable in the first place, and the knock-on effects of vandalism and other crimes commonplace.

The situation regarding travellers is similar in that—at least in the case of most of the groups who come to the Medway area—it involves people with little apparent regard for others' property and well-being and for the law. At the same time it is different in that many more of our own residents are directly responsible for encouraging these groups of travellers to remain in our area, simply by giving them work. If they weren't reasonably certain of making a lot of money by coming here, they'd go elsewhere.

There is no other compelling reason for their staying here—none whatsoever.

Therefore anyone who has ever paid any traveller(s) for any kind of work has contributed to the present situation, and anyone who continues to do so is the real culprit as far as any subsequent problems involving these people are concerned. The rule is simple: never give them any work under any circumstances. That's it. Simple, isn't it?

Well, in practice it isn't quite as easy as that, as the travellers have cottoned onto the idea of marketing themselves more convincingly. They now have signwritten vans, telephone numbers (mobile, of course!) and other ways of appearing to be "legit". Therefore we must all be on our guard when dealing with traders, especially those who come knocking at our doors.

Personally, I won't deal with any door-to-door trader of any kind on principle, as it is my belief that reputable outfits wouldn't need to resort to such methods. Whether this approach is overkill is for others to judge, but at least it helps ensure that I don't inadvertently give business to someone dodgy.

So, there we have it: the solutions to the main causes of anti-social activity lie not only with the law as it is (and there are moves afoot to close existing loopholes without creating new ones, it is hoped) but with us as residents and parents in particular. Do bear the above in mind the next time you encounter one or other of these disruptive elements within our community.

Next time: Electioneering