One of the main reasons why people do not act is because they do not expect their action to have an effect.
The police don't care about crime, and nor does the council care about the area; all politicians are only in it for themselves, and businesses are only interesting in exploiting people. They don't care about people like me or you.
And so a sullen oppositional mindset builds. Constructive engagement is pushed aside, with both sides of the equation expecting nothing from the other but a big waste of time.
People become alienated, driving them towards radical fantasists or cynical disengagement. Meanwhile, authorities and businesses become sloppy, uncaring and unresponsive.
Fortunately, there are ways in which such vicious circles can be stopped. And these actions do not all have to take a lot of time.
One way is just to start sending emails to people in decision-making roles, hassling them a bit about what they do.
It helps to have a bit of leverage when writing complaints. In some cases I mention this website and say that I will write about the situation.
The first email I sent was to my mayor, Steve Bullock. My council, Lewisham, is one of only 13 in
So, six weeks after Mayor Bullock told a local newspaper he was taking a "personal interest" in a crime hotspot at the end of my road, I emailed him to ask what action he had taken. It was not a malicious or accusatory email. It was polite and enquiring.
Soon after, I received a response from someone called Andy Williams, who said he had received the email on the mayor's behalf and had forwarded my query to Geeta Subramanian, head of the council's crime reduction unit.
The first email was sent on 5 February. Today is 19 February and I've heard nothing further. So that's pretty poor.
I've emailed the mayor and Andy Williams again to let them know I am still waiting for a response. I'll update this blog when I do.
21 February: I received an email from Andy Williams informing me that he would chase up Geeta for a response.
22 February: I received an email from Khurram Sheikh on behalf of the Mayor, responding to my original request for information.
In a fairly long email, he states two concrete responses made:
- a number of arrests were made immediately after the incident and investigations are ongoing.
- that a drinking control zone (DCZ) has been agreed in the neighbourhood. "This will tackle the street drinking and the associated anti-social behaviour taking place across the ... neighbourhood." This should become effective in March 2008.