By George Erdos and David Robinson.
This valuable piece of research is sadly betrayed by its title. This is, in fact, no record of failure but a tale of the dogged effort by the police in London and New York to respond to the political demand for a crackdown on crime.
Though it is valuable to have so readable an account of the various approaches taken, it is a pity that the authors stopped at that point. One lesson that emerges is not one of failure but the infinitely more valuable conclusion that cracking down on crime is not in itself enough.
To label the outcome of these years as a “failure” is to misunderstand the real significance of the experiences described. People cannot be made good by force of law; the attack on crime must be balanced by an equally determined attack on the causes of crime.
Even more valuable is the lesson that it is equally futile to treat the problem of law breaking in isolation. It is essentially a social problem and must be considered in that context.
Significantly, the failure of society to accept its share of the responsibility receives only incidental attention. Yet it is society in which this problem has its roots. At the end of the day it is we, the community, who have failed.
Margaret Simey was one time chairperson of the former Merseyside Police Authority.