Early last month, the story was that the problem didn’t exist, at all. Despite the bashings, car-jackings, home invasions and other violent shenanigans, we were told there were absolutely no African street gangs roaming the streets of Melbourne.
Before the end of the month, though, another incident, another media appearance, and the story changed again, this time to the bizarre. The problem wasn’t solved at all and, worse, the fault was ours, didn’t you know: sheesh, you people, you’re so slow to catch on.
Victorian Police Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp said he did “not accept for a minute that we do have gangs”.
If you said otherwise, you were a racist cretin, because well-paid and powerful people had told you what to think.
Within days, another incident occurred, and the story changed. Of course there were gangs, didn’t we know? There had been gangs for ages, we’d been told this already, many times. Can’t you dimwits keep up?
Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said: “We have for a significant period of time said that there is an issue with overrepresentation by African youth in serious and violent offending as well as public disorder issues … they’re behaving like street gangs, so let’s call them that. That’s what they are.”
State Police Minister Lisa Neville said that in 2016, youth offending in Victoria went “to a new level”. At that time, resources had been added, including the purchase of bulletproof vehicles and the recruitment of 3135 additional frontline police.
These measures were “having an impact”, so we didn’t need to worry, they had solved the problem.
On radio 3AW, a caller asked the police why they could not protect the Melburnians who are scared, even when in their own homes and beds. Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said that although police were acting, “the social conditions that we’ve got out there are such that young people are out there looking for trouble”.
This must be a new thing then, young people out looking for trouble.
Ashton also said: “If you’re looking for police to put it to bed, you’re looking in the wrong direction.”
There you go, you drongos, you’ve just been told: your expectations are totally out of whack. Ashton had no advice, though, on who might put the problem to bed for us.
So this is a mad idea of the modern age, then: the expectation the police should protect the community from violent crime. We might have thought the police were tasked to uphold the rule of law and we might be paying them with our taxes to do so, but we are wrong, all wrong. Our demands are way too high; our rambunctious young people are way too much.
As we all know, when the market fails, the government steps in. So when the state fails, the people should look at other options. The government, the police, they can’t have it all their way. If they can’t hold up their end of the contract, then we need another provider.
If Victorians cannot rely on police protection, then we are entitled to look elsewhere. After all, we are not allowed to carry anything to protect ourselves — such as Mace, for instance — so the job of protection must fall to someone else. Why not hire a privatised police force? Police driven by profit. Could they do the job better?
A privatised police force, I know, seems a radical idea. However, when the police tell us that we cannot look in their direction to put the gang problem to bed, we must look in another direction — to Britain, for example. There, the police failed their communities too and, after years of dissatisfaction, a private force was set up. The early results are stunning.
Perhaps it’s something the market might emulate here.
In 2007, former Scotland Yard senior officers set up TM EYE. This week, the Daily Mail reported that in the past two years, TM EYE brought prosecutions against 403 offenders. Their conviction rate, a key measure, is 100 per cent.
Co-founder Tony Nash, an ex-Metropolitan Police commander, said: “There is no substitute for going out and knocking on doors. But with the current state of finances, police are solving cases behind their desks and that has become the culture.”
TM EYE offers a service called My Local Bobby. Guards patrol the streets and, in lawful ways, deal with young people looking to cause trouble. Households pay for this service, and reports have the cost at between £1 and £50 ($1.80-$90) a week each. Communities seem very satisfied, and the proof is in the company’s growth. There are now 60 investigators with offices in London, Manchester and Essex, as well as Mumbai.
TM EYE has solved high-profile murders, helped with rapes, missing persons, burglary, theft, stalking and blackmail. It has conducted financial investigations and helped bust a major manufacturer of fake medicines in India.
Perhaps TM EYE will open a Melbourne office, or someone might set up a similar service locally.