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Thursday, April 08, 2004

The street where we live is pretty quiet most of the time, but recently we have had a spate of obnoxious, semi-intoxicated 14 and 15 year old girls and boys making themselves a nuisance at night time ( particularly upsetting because they do it right in from of the old folks' homes the other side of the street here. And this time they left their unwelcome messy signatures, pictured here, on this wall a few doors down from our house.

The kids, of course, do not live in the immediate vicinity and naturlly , the golden sub-culture rule is " We don't crap on our own doorstep." Teenage nuisance is a national problem as well as a local one, and the present government have taken at least one fairly effective measure against them.

(Because of the age of criminal responsibility , it has been hard to convict kids who are behaving anti-socially and causing offence and criminal damage. There is a general frustration amongst ordinary people that the kids know they can get away with it as they are rarely caught or punished and that there seems to be no effective deterrent.)

More recently, "ASBOs" have been introduced as a means of cracking down on wilder kids, ( Anti-social Behaviour Orders ) many of whom are beyond parental control ( that is with parents who actually give a dam ) The Police gather a profile of evidence and present that to the court, but only the very worst ever get to court. The courts can impose restrictions on the movement of offenders , for example banning them from certain areas of town, and breaking these conditions means a custodial sentence.

A more recent measure has been to bring in further new powers to fine people responsible for graffiti like this. This recent BBC News article
New Laws

outlines details of what are called "tough new laws" , but , personally, I think, an on the spot fine of £ 50 isn't tough at all. (These new powers are only being used in certain towns and Cities as an experiment, and Salford doesn't appear to be involved yet. ) One local authority , Nottingham , has launched a scheme to combat "tagging" with fines of £500 . The scheme encourages people to inform on "taggers." Here's a brief item with more details of that :-
Notingham scheme

I wrote recently on my flog about similar issues and upset a few folks. As one who taught a lot of teenage disaffected Salford kids with a mixture of social, behavioural and learning difficulties for some 15 years prior to my present post, I am very much aware of the psychological and sociological issues behind this kind of behaviour and that there are a lot of families here who experience a daily sense of despair and nihilism and real disadvantage. There is, as well, a cycle of deprivation but also of family disfunctionality.

Part of my brief working with those tough kids was not only to be sensitive to all their emotional and educational needs as a teacher, but to try and build in them a sense of understanding cause and effect, of action and consequence. Most anti-social kids are "inconsequential", that is they never consider the consequences of their actions and neither do they care when they are challenged. There is also the theory of "cognitive dissonance", where a person actually has a set of norms so far off the scale and yet they think their behaviour is perfectly reasonable and thus anyone challenging them will get a string of verbal or even physical abuse.

We have too, now, in education, an imported American classroom discipline technique called "Assertive Discipline." It is based on the notion that life, in and out of the classroom, is a matter of making choices . Typically , the rules are clearly stated , often in writing on classroom walls as are the rewards and consequences for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour that breaks these rules or upholds agreed rules . It is founded on the pretty well researched belief that when kids make "bad choices " , they actually do so wilfully, perversely. They do know the rules. They do know what is reasonable, what is "right" and what is "wrong", but they make a choice to do the negative thing.

With regard to the City in which I live and work, a recent study was seen , by some, as a real shocker, making this place one of the most disadvantaged urban areas in the country.
A report in our local paper briefly outlined the findings of that research . The sort of things it reports about living here are that there is greater likelihood of being robbed, burgled , becoming the victim of car crime, being a road accident victim, lower success rates in educational examinations , higher than the national average for teenage pregnancy , lower than the national average life expectancy. The article can be read in full here :-
Salford Report

And , on a final note, this shot of mine is physical evidence of what is now a crime. I know the identity of one of the young people who sprayed her name on this wall. What do I do with that information and what is the likelihood that reporting it , and any subsequent action taken by the authorities, will convince this person to amend their ways? Very little chance in my experience.

johncoxon 7:19 PM - [Link] - Comments ()

john/Male/51-55. Lives in United Kingdom/Engalnd/Salford, speaks English and French. Eye color is brown. I am what my mother calls unique. I am also creative. My interests are photgraphy/local history.
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