Last week my flatmate was mugged in the street. She came home shocked and, because the muggers, upon grabbing her mp3 and discovering it was old and not worth much, had chucked it onto the ground, resulting in her getting it back, she didn’t even contemplate phoning the police. NO!
I told her to phone the police, which she duly did, they came round and interviewed her this morning. Just chatting to them has left her feeling more confident, empowered. The muggers may not end up getting caught (maybe they will though) but at least the police are aware that the crime happened in the area, may increase their presence and make it less likely to happen in the future.
I went to a dinner party last week, and a girl there said how her sister had come down to breakfast and asked if she’d heard the sound of the woman being attacked in the night. The girl hadn’t but, to her surprise, the sister hadn’t phoned the police!
On Gumtree, there used to be a confessions page where people would anonymously post things that they felt guilty about. I once saw a post where a woman, walking through a park, had witnessed another woman being raped. Not only did she do nothing in the park itself, such as scream at the attackers (which, granted, would have been a brave move, although there are plenty of brave women out there who would have done so), she didn’t even phone the police when she had got away from the area and away from the risk herself. Instead, she just posted on Gumtree (I confess, I wrote a very pointed response as to precisely what a piece of scum I thought she was and that she should contact the police immediately)
When living in a different part of London, I once woke up to the sound of screaming and someone being attacked. I phoned the police, they came round in the middle of the night, and I intoned that I presumed that they’d received several calls about the screaming. Apparently not, just me and one other.
I didn’t grow up in London, but most of London didn’t grow up in London. I am genuinely shocked. People complain about the police (and I have several stories about useless policing, such as when I tackled two muggers on the trendy Kings Road in Chelsea, even managing to report their moped number plate, yet the police still didn’t manage to prosecute the one who owned it, despite him being a known criminal) however we have to report these things ourselves to even give the police a chance.
I want to live in a place that is safe, where you can rely on the people around you. I know most of my neighbours and on the occasion someone tried to break into my house, I am glad that they come out to find out what was going on. They know in return that I would do the same for them. The police are there as back up, they can only be back up if we do the right thing ourselves. And the thing is, lots of people do.
It disturbes me that, on a daily basis, individual members of the public stand up to agressive behaviour, intervene in racist attacks, help one another and are generally good people, and yet the only time this is reported in the media is when the one in a thousand cases results in the person who stepped in getting hurt. There are so many good people in this town, such as the during the riots when the Turkish community went out and protected their shops, or the residents of Wandsworth barricaded the Northcote Road and prevented the rioters from going further up it, even whilst the police were being held back behind Clapham Junction station by their senior officer (the police were considered so useless by the residents, that that night the residents actually ended up attacking the police. Now That was not reported widely in the news!).
The fact is that most people want to step in, they are just scared. And who can blame them when all the stories are so horrific. So let me put this to you. Common law in this country means that you can step in and, if necessary, use “reasonable force” to defend yourself, your property, other people and even their property. For a definition of what is specifically allowed and disallowed under the law, see below.
If the shit goes down, don’t take your cue from other people. Do what you think is right. Who knows, next time you yourself are being attacked, you might be grateful for someone stepping in and defending you. Incidentally, the girl at the dinner party went home and made her sister call the police then and there. Good on her for doing the right thing.