When my mate’s car got nicked…

The full political sanctioning of the police force will not change things on the ground over night. Indeed some people may be very disappointed with slowness of due process, and the long grind of the criminal justice system. Twenty years ago, I saw three kids in inner city Liverpool demolish a car within forty seconds, then scarper before anyone had time to call the cops. It is the kind of thing that happens routinely across in inner urban Britain and Ireland: from Sheriff Street to Peckham.Nevertheless, that is not to say there is not a problem.

I had a call yesterday from an old friend who has recently returned to Northern Ireland. Apparently his son’s old £250 banger got pinched from a supermarket car park recently. When the car turned up a day or two later parked in a side street in West Belfast, the cops went to recover it. When they showed up, there was a small scale riot, during which the thieves managed to burn the car to a shell. Then they made their getaway in yet another stolen car.

Nothing spectacular, I guess, but it is this kind of low level incident that will make acceptance of the police in hard core Republican areas an easier sell than is sometimes portrayed.

  • slug

    My uncle’s car cot stolen and turned up in West Belfast. I guess this was about 1990. When he called the police they said they couldn’t pick it up for him but gave him the number of a person who could recover it for him. Presumably the police couldn’t go in. I wonder if Micks story suggests that things are now ‘progressed’ to the stage where the police are now going in (albeit sometimes prompting rioting)?

    Another interesting report I read (possibly on the BBC site) is the age of the people involved in rioting in North Belfast (mostly sectarian disturbances rather than anti-police), which has fallen so that its done now really by children rather than being lead by adults (as used to be the case). I took that as an interesting and bizarrely encouraging sign of change.

  • BogExile

    People will notice a difference when policing is finally granted legitimacy.

    But, as you allude, the difference will not be necessarily for the better.

    It’s true that there should be faster response times and more visible policing in all areas of low level anti-social behaviour which is far higher up the scale of ordinary people’s anxieties than, say terrorism.

    However, better detection of crime will simply show up the other lamentable features of a criminal justice system which is so ponderous, impassive and impersonal it denies meaningful justice for victims and imposes ineffectual sentences on offenders be that custodial or community.

    So, the peelers will detect more crime in more areas, the PPS will prosecute more crime, the courts may even convict more criminals but in the end, will people feel that they are living in safer communities where young people in particular respect the law and offenders are rehabilitated? Where’s the evidence from the rest of the UK or Eire?

    I remember some years ago when the security presence started to visibly reduce in Fermanagh, that people were shell shocked by the resurgence of a level of crime which would be quite unremarkable in the rest of Britain or Ireland. For good or ill, saturation security in urban areas and extra judicial services with powertools from the paramilitariess had suppressed ordinary decent crime. Young people were too busy being politicised to bother about TWOCing your car (unless for a barricade).

    Nature and Spides abhor a vacuum…

  • slug

    I’ve noticed in Ballymena, when doing my Christmas shopping, that the police had a very ‘saturated’ presence in the town, perhaps a deliberate strategy after the McIlveen murder. They walk around in rather approachable uniforms, specifically it says “town police” on their yellow singlets and they wear soct caps rather than helmets. They were very present walking up and down the main shopping streets. It seems that the police have taken on board the suggestion that people in the Ballymena area are reassured by a very visible but also approachable police presence. A good move in my view.


    No Mick, the problem isn’t selling policing in hard core republican areas, it’s selling it to hard core individual provisionals, many of whom have grown fat on the fear of their communities.

  • overhere

    I think Urquhart that goes for both sides and not just republicians

  • Yokel

    20 years ago Mick? God there was me thinking you werent a day over 25….

  • Edger

    My mates car was stolen in Belfast in 1980 and in 1982 he got a phone call from police in Liverpool saying “they thought they had found his car, but could he give them any further details car that might assist them”.

    He asked them “if there was a yellow pullover on the back seat”!


    Overhere: “I think Urquhart that goes for both sides and not just republicians ”

    I’m with you on that 100%. Was just responding to the post.