The NIO has launched a new campaign called the “ending harm campaign” this article is a critique of the campaign. Below is one of the adverts.
The problems with paramilitary attacks on young men seem to be increasing but so too do incidents of anti-social behavior. We have seen in the past weeks three incidents of vehicular assault/dangerous driving in and around Northern Ireland related to drunk/drug drivers. In one incident a Policeman was hit and in another a man died.
During the 1990s it became almost routine for paramilitaries to meet out corporal punishment to individuals involved in harmful activity. This came after a number of people including a six year old girl were mown down by joy riders.
There is not one monolithic reason why paramilitaries attack individuals but very often it relates to the sale and consumption of drugs.
The drugs issue seems to stem from endemic poverty and lack of an outlet for youthful social interaction. I know this might sound cliche but it is a reality on many housing estates in Northern Ireland. Youth clubs have largely closed because organisers are afraid of the trouble they attracted.
One potentially worrying trend that is relatively new is paramilitaries selling class A drugs and conducting money-lending or usury type practices. This has resulted in a relatively new set of less serious assaults on individuals that are none the less disruptive to the community.
The problem with the ending harm campaign is that it is a sticking plaster over a pretty large wound. To use imagery, rather than using a sticky plaster we need to disinfect the wound, sew it up and tend to it to make sure it remains clean.
The ending harm campaign perpetuates stereotypes that often prevent youth from estates adopting a new positive culture or from integrating with the more wide youth culture in Northern Ireland.
This isn’t really a Policing issue in that a lot of the problems are societal problems and throwing these problems at overstretched policing or demonising working class people using NLP will not solve the problems.
There is an expectation from these communities that the paramilitaries will protect them from becoming victims of crime, including the likes of assault, molestation and so forth. People very often see this as a pragmatic way to protect themselves from deviant activities. This is something that needs to change, people do need to be able to have protection from crime in a localised way. Paramilitaries will often have local knowledge and know the individuals involved, they are not held back by the courts or burden of proof and can put an immediate stop to the activity whatever it might be.
It is however not acceptable to have paramilitaries carry out this function as we have seen in some areas they go rogue and start money lending (including to vulnerable adults) etc. So it follows there is a need for something else in the local area that is accountable and acceptable.(1)
One proposition, in a libertarian model would be for areas to elect a Sheriff, areas could elect a sheriff like they do in the US. It would eliminate a number of problems.
- Sheriffs would be local, elected and accountable
- Sheriffs would have local knowledge
- Sheriffs couldn’t be accused like (what would be the federal PSNI) of being bias
- Sheriffs would be cheaper
- Sheriffs could act faster, you wouldn’t have to wait for the big PSNI juggernaut to turn it’s eye to a petty crime incident
If you don’t like the term you could call it something else, in Republican areas they could call them Guarda or whatever and have them in the Guarda uniform or whatever.
This might seem out of the box but the system could be modeled on a similar system used by Jews in London. They call it the Shomrim. The Shomrim have cars similar to Police cars, a shomrim station and they are able to carry out investigations.
If you were to inact those changes plus spend some money giving the youth a decent environment these problems would be mitigated. The PSNI would also be able to gradually gain a better reputation because it would be seen as an overwhelmingly positive force that chases after bad guys rather than as some bizarre political adversary.