Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Medway riots - More to come?

For a good report on it see the KM website http://tinyurl.com/3myyls9
(photo credit to the KM too.)

So last night the touch paper was lit in the heart of Medway as 15 trouble makers brought London fire to the streets of Medway causing limited damage to property and
the destruction of a few cars.

Luckily the powder was dry and failed to ignite last night but will it happen again and would the result be different?

Medway is a large urban conurbation with a great mixture of people, many of whom earn less than £30k p/a per household (Ours is one) and have similarly hit by the cuts. We have bored kids and youths on the streets, a small gang culture and large open highstreets with alleyway escapes all around. Medway is ripe for riot and civil disorder should the paper be lit if these were the only criteria.

However, despite a certain dislike for Medway council in recent months and for their poor spending record they have done a fairly good job at reducing the impact of the cuts so far. With only £15m cut over four years they have so far tried to reduce the impact to the citizenry. Youth services are still running well and engaging people. Our Borough councillors are engaging the people and appear out with them at things like the Medway Mile, or local events such as Cllr Osborne and the Labour team out at the Luton and Wayfield funday. Politics is that much more accessible in Medway and so people feel they do have more of a voice.

The youth and gang culture isn't as well established in Medway as it is in London. Yes there have been incidents of organised fights and graffiti tags in Medway (notably the Chatham Boyz) but in reality they aren't that big a problem yet and more about fighting each other than organised crime. However they should be managed now before they do grow. At the moment Medway kids are happy to just hang around and cause small amounts of damage, maybe have a ruck with away fans on football days especially after a few beers but this is fairly well controlled by the Police and there hasn't been a serious incident for quite some time.

I'd like to say that there is a great attachment of the community to their pubs and businesses in Medway but there is in Tottenham, Hackney, Enfield, Croydon et. al. It is a small minority that are causing the problems in each of these cases. It is possible that they could be egg on a larger group. If anything it'll be a group from London or elsewhere who will start it hoping that Kent Police will have its reserves tapped to assist in South east London.

Finally, Kent Police are not the Met Police. They handle things differently and, yes I did say the other day that you rarely see Police on the streets of Gillingham but in this case it is probably going to pay off. There are few stop and searches, no Police shootings, no one group feeling oppressed by the Police and so have no problem with them or a desire to give them any trouble.

Despite all of Medways problems and it sharing a lot of problems with London boroughs I think Medway will not suffer the same fate as London and Birmingham. The council and the local Police do need to maintain a steady hand and keep an eye on the situation but real leadership needs to be shown on the national level and I'm interested to see what Theresa May and David Cameron are going to do to make sure there isn't a fourth day of violence on the streets of Great Britain.

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