Would you ever confront a gang of youths vandalising your property?
Garry Newlove did - and paid with his life.
Panorama: Taking Back the Streets BBC One 8.30pm on Monday 3 March 2008
Panorama asks if it's ever safe to confront the gangs if local people can reclaim their streets.
In February this year, three of the gang were jailed for life for the murder of Garry Newlove. The alcohol fuelled attack was witnessed by his 18-year-old daughter Zoe, who told Panorama what she saw:
"They all just started swearing at him and then he went towards one of them and they just started hitting him."
She ran after them to find her father lying on the street after what she described as a "vicious attack" the attackers were "laughing, they thought it was funny." Mr Newlove died two days later and never regained consciousness.
Although his murder is an extreme example, fear of street gangs and violence are common all over the country.
We spoke to people on the Bulwell Hall estate in Nottingham where gangs have been causing problems for residents for two years. One resident, Sarah, tells how she asked one of the gangs to be quiet one night and is now scared of going out:
"I'm just constantly scared. I daren't go out. I've got to either have [my husband] David or my oldest son with me if I'm going."
Other residents living on the same street reported similar problems, they spoke of verbal abuse, drinking, damage to cars and fences and intimidating behaviour.
The Newlove case put the issue of gang behaviour centre stage with calls for the police to be given more. But does the answer lie solely with the police? And where else can people turn for help?
The cause of anti-social behaviour has been studied by Dr David Halpern of Cambridge University, an advisor to Tony Blair's government. He believes the answer lies in what is known as social capital. He explained to Panorama how it works:
"In a neighbourhood where people know each other better, they are more likely to intervene in the precursors of crime.
"High social capital communities are likely to organise together to get the police to do their job and finally they tend to make better citizens."
Dr Stuart Waiton, lecturer at the University of Abertay in Dundee agrees. He thinks that a lot of the problems arise from a lack of community:
"Previously people had bonds... people felt part of the welfare state or they were in trade unions or women's institutes. There was more of a sense of collectivity."
This is born out by the figures. In 1946 more than half of us belonged to an organisation such as a trade union or church. By 1970 this had gone down to one in ten. Modern life can leave us isolated and vulnerable to gangs of youngsters that we feel unable to confront.
Sense of community
But one woman from Braunstone in Leicester believes that this bleak picture need not be the case and demonstrates how social capital can work.
Eight years ago, Anne Glover and other Braunstone residents were awarded £50 million of government money and transformed the area where they live.
Today, boarded-up houses, graffiti, burned-out cars and a huge crime and anti-social behaviour problem have been replaced with sport's centres and libraries youth clubs.
Garry Newlove was murdered when he confronted a gang of youths
She thinks anti-social behaviour thrives because of people's fear to deal with it:
"It never ceases to amaze me how a minority can control an area where a majority of people live... all because of the fear factor. If you stick together on an issue they can't intimidate you."
Anne represents what some think is a more realistic way to beat the gangs using the networks that bind communities together and improve the quality of life for everyone - social capital.
She also says that people shouldn't be so quick to label all young people as troublemakers, something that Stuart Waiton agrees with:
"If everyone on an estate felt that it was part of their rule... just spontaneously to relate to kids... to check their behaviour [and] socialise them, you wouldn't have half the problems. You might still have problems as kids will be kids to a certain extent but this is what the community is meant to be about - socialising the next generation of kids."
While life in Braunstone isn't perfect - community spirit doesn't solve everything and poverty and poor housing can't just be wished away, the transformation is marked. People used to want to get off the estate, now there's a waiting list to get on it.
Social capital is not about close knit communities intervening to stop serious crime; it's about people getting involved in their community as a way of preventing crime.
This is something that Zoe Newlove agrees with:
"Because of my dad's death people need to buck-up their ideas and want to have community spirit - not just two or three people on the street - but everybody grouping together."
Panorama: Taking Back the streets BBC One 8.30pm on Monday 3 March 2008.
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Garry Newlove's daughter describes the night he was beaten to death
Taking Back the Streets
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