Improve social services to the Meadows, not more police
Improve social services to the Meadows, not more police
TL;DR: The action plan for solving litter and violence in the Meadows is absurd, and will only cause more reactionary crime, as well as making it a more uncomfortable place for many people. Improving social services is a demonstrably much more effective approach, as well as one that has already been asked for for years.
The recent action plan shared for the current situation in the Meadows is atrocious.
The public have been asking for a solution to the violence and litter in the Meadows, which the plan is aimed at, but that is only the lesser half of the issue currently at hand.
For a long time the public have been asking for more toilets and bins, more services to accommodate the increasing number of people - a longer time than the new rise in violence and litter caused by lockdown. As seems evident by the reaction of the public to this new plan, those demands were not small fancies but at the very least half the issue - by some seen as the full issue.
This plan offers an increased inspection of bins and some more cleaners. That utterly fails to accommodate the now old and seasoned demands for any serious improvement to public services on the meadows. Services which would reduce the littering and anti-social behaviour seen too; as seen in this government report: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/182548/DFE-RR111.pdf
A report which even states that some social projects were ineffective because of the required police presence :
"After School Patrols are based solely on deterrence and involve situating police
officers on problematic bus routes and interchanges. According to the international
literature, they are unlikely to be effective in preventing or reducing young people’s
long term engagement in youth crime or antisocial behaviour. "
Not to mention this strategy of increasing services instead of increasing the police's heavy hand is in a NPCC 2018 consensus: https://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/policing-health-and-social-care-consensus#:~:text=Today%20a%20national%20consensus%20has,most%20vulnerable%20people%20in%20England
People are angry at both this, and the alternative suggested, which amounts to increased Police presence and surveillance. This is a slap in the face to young people especially, and those who listen to them. It is only furthering the narrative that "hooligans" are showing up out of no where, with little thought except to drink, cause violence and be nasty. The reality is being buried: a combination of young people being at an unstable point in their lives, who are among the hardest hit by the pandemic, who lack the experience and social security to deal with the scenario as well as others and as a result are full of unresolved tension, with mental health taking a severe toll. If thousands of young, emotional, active people are locked in homes for months, of course they will jump at the chance to convene, and of course there will be increased activity of all kinds, including drinking and violence.
I would like to know too on what basis was this tactic considered; looking up sources, the most recent report I could see on Police Scotland's handling of children is here: https://cypcs.org.uk/investigations/investigation-restraint-and-seclusion/local-authority-responses/ in which the report concludes that the effectiveness of policing of children and young people in schools is unknown as it is simply shockingly under-monitored. Given that was in 2018 and there has been no more recent source I can find, it appears as tho little has been done to change this. Is this the sort of responsibility with which we now want to handle the current situation?
To suggest more solely police and surveillance is the solution to this is absurd. For one, it will not stop young people: people who have been failed by authority before, who are angry at the situation of the UK and the world at large, are not going to react well to an authoritarian approach. It does not help anyone else either. There has always been a problem of trust with ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ people towards the police, even the police force itself (https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/fp/news/politics/scottish-politics/2640292/police-scotland-report-ethnic-minority-officers-leaving-because-of-culture-of-force/ https://www.gov.scot/publications/independent-review-complaints-handling-investigations-misconduct-issues-relation-policing/
Especially with the recent case of Sarah Everard, women are also unlikely to feel safer in increased police presence: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/16/institutional-misogyny-erodes-womens-trust-in-uk-police
So by process of elimination, we can say this plan is great for middle aged or older white straight men. For everyone else, the Meadows is only going to become an even more uncomfortable place to be. Obviously in an ideal world the police would be trusted and they could offer a feeling of security, as is what the action plan states. This is simply not the reality however, and putting more officers and surveillance in the Meadows is not how to go about rebuilding that trust.
In summary, the action plan is failing to accommodate the real issues at hand or to make the majority of people feel safer and happier in the Meadows. It seems to come from a lack of understanding on the issues at hand, and a very lax amount of research done into solutions, if any. The policing plan will make things worse for the Meadows, while the alternative of improved social services will help it, as shown by sources. This plan should be heavily reconsidered and changed to match the reality.