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With police lying low, how long before vigilantes patrol our streets?


Years ago, I used to travel by inter-city coach between London and Leeds. It was vital to reach the front of the queue when getting off, to be beside the driver when he opened the luggage hold. After all, anybody could just have walked off with my luggage. I never did experience a problem. But things seem to be changing, in other countries at least.

In Belgium, the Flixbus company is considering cancelling its service to and from the Brussel-Noord coach station, citing attacks on passengers and threats to drivers. Brussel-Noord is close to Maximilian Park, where many immigrant youths meet and, in the evenings, they hang around the coach station.

Coach drivers claim that gangs lie in wait for buses to arrive, whereupon they pounce, stealing luggage and robbing passengers at knifepoint while threatening drivers who try to intervene. Emergency police alarms are not usually answered, and city police claim they don’t have the necessary manpower. The company has reported similar problems in Paris where a mob opened the baggage compartment of a moving coach and grabbed the luggage. This film was recorded by a bystander and uploaded to social media.

It seems the police are too busy to intervene, and in Belgium a police chief has suggested that the bus company should operate its own security. What – somebody riding shotgun, like John Wayne?

Elsewhere in France, a report from BFMTV confirms that four police officers from Morocco are to be sent to Paris to help deal with young delinquent migrants. They are scheduled to patrol the Goutte d’Or neighbourhood, where many migrants live on the streets, and where there are problems with violence, drugs and prostitution. Crime in the area has escalated since 2017, and young migrants have been arrested more than 800 times. The idea is that the Moroccan officers will be able to communicate more effectively with the young men, who ‘are isolated and going astray’, and help to get them back home. So, not so much security guards this time, more like helpful counsellors.

In many European countries, significant rises in crime have been reported where there are high concentrations of migrant encampments and hostels.

In the Belgian town of Zeebrugge, residents have reportedly threatened to take the law into their own hands after a series of robberies from houses and cars, allegedly committed by illegal migrants. Police are not happy, and have warned against confronting the many people who sleep on the streets and in the parks. They say the right thing to do is to inform them. The residents find this response far from satisfactory.

After a wave of aggressive robberies in the Paris suburb of Créteil, especially against women coming home from work late at night, twelve members of the Chinese community have begun to patrol the streets. Householders had frequently called the police, but officers did little other than stay in their cars. Since the patrols started, few aggressive incidents have been reported.

So again: police inadequacy leading to despairing locals contemplating becoming vigilantes.

In the UK, people also feel poorly supported by the police, whose response to reported crime generally is woeful. Seven out of 14 forces have been dubbed ‘inadequate’ for failing to record hundreds of thousands of crimes reported to them.

Responsible citizens across Europe would wish to welcome those less fortunate, but only if new arrivals respect the rule of law and expectations of socially acceptable behaviour, matched by growing police budgets and presence on the streets. Instead, the opposite is the case.

If the police won’t or can’t protect the passengers and drivers of Flixbus, the residents of Goutte d’Or and Créteil, and the townspeople of Zeebrugge, what else is there? Friendly counselling for Moroccan illegals? Commercial operations threatening their viability by accepting the need to provide their own shotgun security? Citizens being driven to take the law into their own hands?

A final note. We always spend the August Bank Holiday in Broadstairs, still very much a traditional seaside holiday town. But even here there are problems. Police have warned the grammar school Dane Court of the likelihood that a pupil will be murdered within the next 12 months due to rising drug gang activity. What? Even in lovely Broadstairs? The head explained that pupils can be approached on the way home or at the beach, by gang members. Some were filmed taking part in a violent attack, as a gang initiation. They were then blackmailed into acting as drugs couriers, less noticeable in their smart school uniform. The head also admitted: ‘There are about 20 pupils we are concerned about. Two or three are certainly gang members.’ But he added: ‘I do not want us to be labelled as the grammar school with the gang problem.’

So what are the police doing? Watching, advising, though not, it seems, doing much. But it remains their responsibility to respond and react to all reported crime. Ordinary people want action, not just words. School heads seem to have irreconcilable conflicts of interest. Police appear to have little interest at all. And our esteemed leaders in Whitehall seem totally inadequate at dealing with the challenges, leaving us with some hard choices of who to turn to or what to do:

The police – not usually there;

Helpful counsellors – do me a favour . . .

Private security – affordable only by people such as Tony Blair (at our expense!);

Frustrated residents driven to vigilantism.

I know which I am putting my money on.

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Janice Davis
Janice Davis
Janice Davis is a grandmother and former girls’ grammar school teacher

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