Tuesday, May 21, 2013
'How Jill Dando's death convinced me everything you know about crime is wrong': NICK ROSS tells the shocking truth about the murder of his friend and the real cause of crime
Nick Ross surely has a point below about the importance of prevention but turning every home into a steel-shielded fortress seems impossibly expensive. And how do you prevent street crime? And even with an armed citizenry -- as in some American States -- there is still a lot of crime
Crime has been with us since Adam and Eve and, surprisingly, God didn’t spot the solution.
Rather than punishing the miscreants, it might have been better had he put the forbidden fruit higher up the tree. We have been too slow to realise how strongly crime levels are dictated by temptation and opportunity.
It took a lot of research to persuade me of this. When, in 1984, I started presenting Crimewatch, I shared everyone’s presumptions that crime is caused by criminals. It seemed obvious: If we want to cut crime we must cut criminality. Three years later, quite by chance, I had an epiphany.
I was reporting for the BBC and, at the start of China’s astonishing race towards modernisation, I stood on a top-floor balcony in a dusty town with the local mayor. He proudly pointed out the local hospital, a big school and a prosperous cluster of new houses.
Why, I asked, were some of the new homes surrounded by barbed wire? The mayor responded sorrowfully: ‘Burglaries,’ he said. ‘Mostly televisions.’ I said I hadn’t realised burglary was a problem in China.
‘It wasn’t,’ said the mayor.
‘So what changed?’ I asked.
The mayor recoiled slightly as though it were a trick question. After a moment he responded gravely: ‘We didn’t have televisions.’
Human nature remains more or less constant from one generation to another but situations change, and it is those evolving situations that largely determine how much is stolen, how many people are assaulted and how many citizens get hooked on drugs or even child pornography.
The message is that if you want to cut crime, you need to spend more time on low-hanging fruit.
By seeing crooks as the big issue, we tend to not to notice how important immediacy is. We favour solutions which are remote – improving parenting, for example – rather than improving security at the scene of the crime.
We still need to catch offenders – I am a proud trustee of Crimestoppers – but we cannot arrest our way out of trouble.
I started looking to criminology for answers but found a lot of political diatribe and pseudoscience.
When my co-presenter, Jill Dando was murdered in 1999, I proposed a more rigorous approach and, with public support, we founded the Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science at University College London.
It is now thriving and has helped me see that almost everything we are told about crime – certainly everything I once thought I knew – is wrong.
In some ways, my argument is a challenge to everyday reporting of crime. The human condition recoils from the mundane untidiness of reality.
Who, for example, can resist a good conspiracy theory – whether it’s flying saucers, or that 9/11 was organised by Mossad, or that Princess Di was murdered?
Take what happened after the murder of Jill.
She was then the most popular presenter on TV, so her shooting caused a sensation and, given her role on Crimewatch, people leapt to the idea that she had been killed because of one of her appeals.
Within hours, I was trying to calm the speculation down.
The immediate facts made a contract killing improbable but in any case the revenge motive would have been entirely without precedent in modern mainland Britain.
As more evidence emerged, the conspiracy theory became even less sustainable. The killer had hung around with no disguise at the wrong address – it was chance she turned up. He had no getaway vehicle and so had to walk away down a long straight street with no turn-offs.
He didn’t have a real gun or ammunition but home-made versions of both. He held the weapon in contact with his victim’s head, which would have showered him with tell-tale forensic evidence. And so it went on. All in all it was about as amateurish and clumsy as a shooting can be.
So I became alarmed when the inquiry seemed to be taking the conspiracy theory seriously.
I wrote privately to the head of the investigation, pointing out that when celebrities are shot, like John Lennon, the killer invariably turned out to be a loner.
It turned out that Britain’s top profiler at the National Crime Faculty agreed with me, but nobody took much notice. It was a frustrating as well as an upsetting time for me and for Jill’s other colleagues on the programme.
Yet, when this first conspiracy theory began to fade, I could not have imagined that another intrigue would replace it, one that was not just unconvincing but risible.
According to this new hypothesis, the author of Jill’s murder was Slobodan Milosevic. The reason was that a few weeks before Jill’s death, she had fronted an appeal for victims of the civil war in former Yugoslavia and there was conjecture that the Serbs had taken umbrage. Then, when a Serb TV station was hit by a NATO air strike on Belgrade, a plot was hatched to kill her.
However improbable, this Balkans theory made front-page news and became one of the most popular and persistent explanations for Jill’s death.
For the record, the idea was based entirely on a mild letter of complaint to Jill written by a Serb. It was so low-key that Jill’s agent only mentioned it to police, ‘clutching at straws’, some weeks later.
She thinks the Yugoslav connection is ludicrous and so do the detectives and all Jill’s colleagues who have been on the inside track of the inquiry. Yet crime and conspiracy theories go together as readily as Bonnie and Clyde. We love ’em.
Myth One: 'Crime is caused by a broken society'
Liberals and Left-wingers are convinced crime is caused by unfairness and poverty, and social conservatives are equally certain it is down to lack of discipline and failing values.
Yet there can be few clearer illustrations of the huge part played by temptation and opportunity than the rise and fall in car crime.
Car numbers reached ten million in 1970, or one for every two households, and that turned out to be a tipping point. Car theft boomed. Some 20,000 were reported stolen in 1968, and then, suddenly, in 1969 thefts rocketed six-fold.
Did something happen in that time to breed more deviance and badness? Less authority, less self-control, perhaps? Or more unfairness and therefore less compliance?
The numbers add up to a different story: Half the homes in Britain now had hundreds or thousands of pounds’ worth of property sitting out on the street unguarded and it was temptation on an ostentatious scale. It was also staggeringly easy.
My first car, a Mini, had almost no security at all. You could force the flimsy lock with one hand or prise open the sliding window and unlock it from the inside.
By 1990, there were 20 million cars and half a million thefts a year and by 1993, when ‘taking without owner’s consent’, or ‘twocking’ reached its peak, the annual risk of a vehicle being stolen was one in 30.
Then, in 1995, the problem started to decline, which is where social theories hit another problem. Community divisions like income inequality were growing, not diminishing.
Right-wing beliefs also faced a contradiction. There had been no return to hanging, birching or religious observance, and more and more children were born out of wedlock.
Yet car theft tumbled. Within ten years, recorded numbers halved, and by 2011 twocking had dipped below 100,000, the lowest figure since 1968.
For once, politicians were involved in wholesale and dramatically successful crime reduction. They put pressure on car-makers to mend the vulnerabilities in their products.
Immobilisers, intruder alarms, central locking, sophisticated keys, tougher door and boot designs were introduced and much more besides, and all of them had an immediate effect – especially immobilisers, which prevented hot-wiring of the ignition. In little more than a decade, car crime plummeted in England and Wales by around two-thirds.
Myth Two: 'British justice is the best in the world'
When I started Crimewatch, I thought British justice was the best in the world.
After 30 years’ experience, I am now in contempt of court. It is not as open as it claims, it is slow, costly, and still believes that debate is the best way to establish facts. It is also more concerned with offenders than with victims.
When my 90-year-old father-in-law woke one night to find an intruder, the police were all one could have asked of them. His front room was strewn with glass, drawers and cupboards had been rifled and a random selection of trinkets stolen.
My father-in-law had come down the staircase brandishing his walking stick (‘Well,’ he told us, ‘I was in the Army’), shouted at the intruder to get out, and got a vague impression of someone climbing back out through the broken window.
The police made sure he had a cup of tea and stayed a reassuring half an hour. The next day, a forensic officer found a bloody fingerprint – the burglar had cut himself as he fled through the broken shards. So far, so good. And that was the last we heard.
Or at least, it was until we called them and were told they had identified the villain – a prolific burglar – but would not press charges because, at 90, my father-in-law would not make a good witness. The matter was dropped.
It was a classic illustration of how the legal process has divorced itself from decency and common sense.
It should not have mattered if my father-in-law, nonagenarian, living alone, frightened and in semi-darkness, got the description wrong.
The fingerprint and blood left by the burglar were proof enough. The offender went on offending and the victim was abandoned.
What police will not have known (and since nobody kept in touch, how could they?) was how that small nocturnal trauma ruined the rest of my father-in-law’s life. Thereafter, he couldn’t sleep. He began hallucinating, seeing a strange man in his room and wandering round his house, a man who used his toothpaste and toyed with his possessions.
His confusion and anxiety were not caused by the burglar – it was diagnosed as a form of dementia – but the form it took undoubtedly was. At his insistence, after a lifetime of domestic tranquillity, his house was thereafter encased with burglar-proof steel mesh.
Myth Three: 'Poverty is the main cause of crime'
Instinctively, almost everyone thinks poverty is the prime cause of crime.
This is especially true for the liberal Left, for whom it has been an article of faith, but even Right-wingers at heart share in the assumption that the poor are somehow dangerous.
Yet surveys show there is no correlation between a society’s experience of crime and its sense of fairness.
In any case, crime rose exponentially at a time of unprecedented prosperity when, in the famous words of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Britain had, ‘never had it so good’.
Whatever else was causing crime to rise, it was not poverty. On the contrary, it was wealth, which brought with it progenitors of crime, including: higher wages and more credit, thus more to steal; more spare time; more late night carousing; more alcohol and drugs; more social mobility; more travel; and more anonymity.
We forget that the class system had been a huge restraining influence on the majority.
Its breakdown has changed our dreams and made us hope that they really might come true. It has made us aspire and made us envious.
As the pitilessly direct Conservative sage Lord Tebbit put it: ‘When I look at what we denounce as the appalling conduct of “ordinary people” I see the way the rich have always behaved.
‘It’s just that they have had the resources to deal with the fallout.’
Myth Four: 'A 'wicked' minority is behind crime
The truth is that most of us cheat and steal and almost all of us can be persuaded to. Yet we rationalise our own behaviours, while we denounce the sins of others.
We have constructed a fantasy world in which we, the goodies, must be protected from a minority of potential baddies.
Most of us break the law. A third of British males born in the 1950s had acquired a criminal conviction by the time they were middle-aged.
If you think that sounds fantastic, several follow-up studies have shown similar results.
And what about the other two-thirds? Have they never been criminals? Or could it be that they never got caught and convicted?
A 2003 survey found almost half of us would evade income tax, two-thirds would dodge a fare or install illegal software, almost as many would steal office stationery and over a quarter would filch a hotel towel. For ‘would’ one might reasonably substitute ‘had’.
We all have ethics, and each of us has different limits, but sainthood is not the default position of humanity and for most of us our morals are for sale if the price is right.
Myth Five: 'There is more crime than ever before'
The more historical archives are analysed, the more it seems that violence was once a much larger part of life than it is now.
Historical records show the homicide rates in 13th Century England were about twice as high as those in the 16th and 17th Centuries, and those of the 16th and 17th Centuries were some five to ten times higher than today.
Recorded crime rose slowly from 1900 to 1930, then accelerated to the 1950s, after which there was a fearful lurch upwards that continued for 40 years.
After that, crime did not just dip, it plunged.
Almost all the downward trends were masked at first by figures recorded by police, but police statistics can be hugely misleading because most crime – including serious violence – is not reported.
Property crime began to tumble around 1995 and violent crime subsided five years later. Hospital attendance for wounding fell every year from 2001 onwards.
Homicide seemed to have peaked in 2002. The speed of crime’s decline had come to mirror the ferocity of its ascent.
So deeply rooted are our assumptions about crime and criminals that it sometimes seems as though no amount of evidence will shift them: the curmudgeon’s myth that crime is always rising, the deviancy delusion that offenders are abnormal.
But it really is true that opportunity makes the thief. To a vast extent it also creates the football hooligan, drink-driver, and knife-wielding youth too.
This is why crime rates rise, and it is how we make them fall. It is why burglary as well as car theft rocketed until we became serious about home and vehicle security. It is how we so radically curbed football violence and road fatalities.
It is the reason why so many British politicians got caught with their hands in the till until their expenses protocols were changed.
Crime requires more than a predisposition to offend. It will flourish when we make it easy and shrivel when we make it hard.
Freedom philosophy embodied in London buses!
It sounds unlikely but Boris Johnson makes the case
I remember what the doubters said when we first announced a new bus for London – a replacement for the beloved Routemaster. They said I was mad. The Labour Party said I was deranged. My opponents said I was a swivel-eyed loon, or words to that effect. They said we were showing an arrant disregard for health and safety, and that in any case, it would never be built.
Where is it, they used to sneer at me, as Sir Peter Hendy and Transport for London began the necessarily lengthy process of procurement. When’s the bus due, eh? And when the first prototype finally turned up in 2011, the machine managed to conk out on the M1 (because someone had forgotten that a diesel hybrid still needs to be filled with diesel). The sceptics laughed their pants off.
So it gives me unbridled joy to inform you that the new bus will shortly arrive en masse. A whole gleaming fleet of them is about to take over Route 24, from Pimlico to Hampstead Heath; and in the next two years they will cease to be a curiosity – a rare species of charismatic megafauna that you might spot once in the course of a safari. They will be a glorious and regular addition to London’s streetscape, as famous and as emblematic as the elephants of the Serengeti, whose noble and domelike brows they faintly resemble.
When I went to Antrim last week, and saw dozens of them being made in the new Wrightbus plant, I felt a sense of awe, and the deep certainty that this was the most wonderful project I had ever been involved in. It has clean, green hybrid technology. If the new bus fulfils the promise it has shown in tests, we will be able to save so much on fuel that it will actually come out cheaper than our current hybrid buses. With 600 of them on the streets by 2016, they will make a significant reduction in nitrogen oxides and particulates, and will help us to improve air quality in the city.
The bus is a masterpiece of design, conceived by Thomas Heatherwick, the magician who created the Olympic cauldron. It helps to drive employment throughout the UK – unlike the wretched bendy buses, which were made in Germany. London’s buses are creating hundreds of jobs at the plants in Northern Ireland, but it does not stop there. The engines come from Darlington, the seats are made in Telford, the seat moquette in Huddersfield, the ramps are from Hoddesdon and the “Treadmaster” flooring from Liskeard. Oh, and the destination signs are from Manchester.
It is the embodiment of the point I often make, that investment in London boosts the rest of the UK economy, directly and indirectly. We have stimulated the very best of British technology, creating jobs in this country, and yes, we are now looking to potential export markets.
All these features make the bus remarkable; but there is one more thing about it – the best thing of all. This bus stands for freedom, and choice, and personal responsibility. It not only fulfils a promise often made to Londoners by bringing back conductors; it restores to the streets of London the open platform at the rear – and in so doing, it restores the concept of a reasonable risk.
We all remember the pleasure of the old Routemasters. It wasn’t anything to do with the way their flanks heaved and throbbed like wounded old warhorses. It wasn’t the boggler-boggler-boggler noise or the fumes of diesel. It was the way you could sit on those banquette seats at the back, high over the wheel arches, and watch the road passing you outside. And if the bus got stuck in traffic, or at the lights, you knew that you weren’t a prisoner. You were allowed to get on and off at will, provided the thing wasn’t moving, and now that freedom and benefit will be restored.
Of course, you will have to be careful. You should look around to make sure there aren’t any motorbikes or cycles approaching. But if the road is clear and the traffic is stationary, and you want to hop off and do some shopping – or if you have missed the bus at the stop, and you want to scoot down the street to catch it up – then the option is there. You can hop on and hop off, like the hop-on hop-off hoplites [heavily armed soldiers of Ancient Greece] who were trained to leap from moving chariots and then back on again.
Yes, of course there is a risk; but that risk is manageable; and without it you have no opportunity to ascend or escape the bus if you want to. It is, as far as I know, one of the few recent examples of a public policy that actually gives back, to sentient and responsible adults, the chance to take an extra risk in return for a specific reward.
We need to develop this thought, because I worry that in the post-crisis world, we have become all too paranoid, too risk-averse. Yes, the banks made grotesque errors, largely because they could not understand the risks they were taking. But unless we allow businesses and banks to take reasonable risks, they will never hit the jackpot at all.
Why is it that Britain hasn’t produced a giant like Google, or Facebook, or Amazon? It is because such a business, in the UK, would not have been given access to the capital required. We are more hostile to risk, and, indeed, we are more hostile to reward. If you go to San Francisco, where so many of these tech giants were born, you can see the most bizarre tram I have ever set eyes on. People hang from it like gibbons as it swoops and clangs through the streets. It would never be allowed in Europe. But the San Francisco authorities evidently believe that Americans are more robust – more willing to be free, more willing to make their own assessment of a reasonable risk.
If you look at the state of the eurozone, and you compare it with the US economy, you can see the possible advantages of this approach. And that is the point of the hop-on hop-off platform. In restoring a culture of reasonable risk-taking, it is a platform for growth.
DOJ on ‘Gays’: ‘Silence Will be Interpreted as Disapproval’
Under President Obama, “justice” is anything but blind. Neither is it deaf. In fact, based on recent revelations, it appears to be watching your every move and listening to your every word. Still, if you happen to be a federal employee, now it’s even listening for your silence.
The only thing this Obama White House seems to generate is scandal. Well, here’s yet another to add to the growing list. In addition to the Benghazi cover-up, IRS targeting of political dissenters and the illegal seizure of media phone records, whistleblowers within DOJ have contacted Liberty Counsel to express grave concerns over this administration’s latest attack on freedom.
Our sources have provided Liberty Counsel an internal DOJ document titled: “LGBT Inclusion at Work: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Managers.” It was emailed to DOJ managers in advance of the left’s so-called “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month.”
The document is chilling. It’s riddled with directives that grossly violate – prima facie –employees’ First Amendment liberties.
Following are excerpts from the “DOJ Pride” decree. When it comes to “LGBT” employees, managers are instructed:
“DON’T judge or remain silent. Silence will be interpreted as disapproval.” (Italics mine)
That’s a threat.
And not even a subtle one.
Got it? For Christians and other morals-minded federal employees, it’s no longer enough to just shut up and “stay in the closet” – to live your life in silent recognition of biblical principles (which, by itself, is unlawful constraint). When it comes to mandatory celebration of homosexual and cross-dressing behaviors, “silence will be interpreted as disapproval.”
This lawless administration is now bullying federal employees – against their will – to affirm sexual behaviors that every major world religion, thousands of years of history and uncompromising human biology reject.
Somewhere, right now, George Orwell is smiling.
The directive includes a quote from a “gay” federal employee to rationalize justification: “Ideally, I’d love to hear and see support from supervisors, so it’s clear that there aren’t just policies on paper. Silence seems like disapproval. There’s still an atmosphere of LGBT issues not being appropriate for the workplace (particularly for transgender people), or that people who bring it up are trying to rock the boat.”
Of course there’s “still an atmosphere of LGBT issues not being appropriate for the workplace.” When well over half of federal employees, half the country and most of the world still acknowledge objective sexual morality (and immorality), “the workplace,” especially the federal workplace, should, at the very least, remain neutral on these highly controversial and behavior-centric issues.
Still, to borrow from self-styled “queer activist,” anti-Christian bigot and Obama buddy Dan Savage, “it gets better”:
“DO assume that LGBT employees and their allies are listening to what you’re saying (whether in a meeting or around the proverbial water cooler) and will read what you’re writing (whether in a casual email or in a formal document), and make sure the language you use is inclusive and respectful.”
Is this the DOJ or the KGB? “[A]ssume that LGBT employees are listening …”? And what are “LGBT allies”? If you disagree with the homosexual activist political agenda, does that make you the enemy?
Yes, in any workplace, language should remain professional, but who defines what’s “inclusive”? Who decides what’s “respectful”? If asked about “LGBT issues,” for instance, can a Christian employee answer honestly: “I believe the Bible. I believe that God designed sex to be shared between husband and wife within the bonds of marriage”? Or is that grounds for termination?
Here are some more DOs:
DO “Attend LGBT events sponsored by DOJ Pride and/or the Department, and invite (but don’t require) others to join you.”
DO “Display a symbol in your office (DOJ Pride sticker, copy of this brochure, etc.) indicating that it is a ‘safe space.’”
Are you kidding? Does this administration really think it’s legal to induce managers to “attend LGBT events,” or to “display pride stickers” against their will? That’s compulsory expression. That’s viewpoint discrimination.
But there’s more:
“DO use inclusive words like ‘partner,’ ‘significant other’ or ‘spouse’ rather than gender-specific terms like ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ (for example, in invitations to office parties or when asking a new employee about his/her home life).”
Oh, brother. Sorry. Oh, gender-neutral sibling.
“DO use a transgender person’s chosen name and the pronoun that is consistent with the person’s self-identified gender.”
In other words, lie. Engage in corporate delusion.
“DO deal with offensive jokes and comments forcefully and swiftly when presented with evidence that they have occurred in the workplace.”
“DO communicate a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate jokes and comments, including those pertaining to a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.”
Who gets to decide what’s an “inappropriate joke [or] comment”? I thought we had a Constitution for that. It sure ain’t Big Brother Barack. Sure, I get it, it’s probably better not to start your work day with: “A lesbian, a tranny and two gays walk into a bath house …” but still, “no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” means no law. No matter how much Obama wishes it so, we don’t leave our constitutional rights at the federal workplace door.
The DOJ edict even addresses cross-dressing man woes:
“As a transgender woman [that’s a man in a skirt], I want people to understand that I’m real. I want to be recognized as the gender I really am [again, you’re a man in a skirt]. Yes, there was awkwardness with pronouns at first for folks who knew me before the transition. But it hurts when several years later people still use the wrong pronouns. And just imagine if people were constantly debating YOUR bathroom privileges. Imagine how humiliating that would be.”
Tell you what, buddy: I won’t “debate YOUR bathroom privileges” if you return to this planet. You’d better stay the heck out of the ladies room while my wife or two daughters are in there; otherwise, we have a problem. Women have an absolute right not be sexually harassed in the workplace – a right to privacy when using the facilities. To constantly worry whether a gender-confused, cross-dressing man is going to invade her privacy creates a hostile work environment.
This “DOJ Pride” directive is but the latest example of the “progressive” climate of fear and intimidation this radical Obama regime has created for Christians, conservatives and other values-oriented folks, both within and without the workplace.
I’m just glad the wheels are finally coming off.
Australia: Not "discrimination" to ban prostitute from motel
THE owner of a country motel who won an appeal against a sex worker who took a discrimination case against her says she is "ecstatic" that her business reputation has been restored.
Drovers Rest Motel manager Joan Hartley, who in 2008 told the sex worker she could not come back and rent a room for prostitution, said the motel had become known as "the whorehouse of Moranbah".
"Now I just want it known as the Drovers Rest - the nice, quiet, homely, friendly place it's always been," Mrs Hartley, 67, said. "I'm not a prude. I believe there is a place for these people, but that place is not in my motel."
Mrs Hartley, who with husband Evan, 68, has been running the motel for 13 years, said it had been stressful fighting the discrimination case.
"We are ecstatic, not only for ourselves, but because we've been able to win a situation where every motel owner can say 'no' to these people because they can ruin their business reputation," Mrs Hartley said.
On Friday the Court of Appeal overturned an appeal decision in Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, which the sex worker won last year.
The court heard that on June 28, 2010, the sex worker, who had stayed at the motel for prostitution purposes during the previous two years, was told she would have to stay elsewhere in future.
In 2011 the legal sex worker, who had been earning $2000 a day during sporadic visits to the Drovers Rest, lost the first round of her discrimination case against the motel, then won an appeal in QCAT.
The motel owners appealed and on Friday the Court of Appeal unanimously found in their favour.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.