BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Audio/Video: Programmes: Panorama
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 
Programmes 

banner
Young Robbers, Sunday October 29 2000


When I was still at school ten years ago, I was mugged by a young robber on the way home. However, when one is mugged, one usually is threatened to hand money over to the person. I never carried money with me when I was at school so how could I hand any money over? The problem at the time was that I was about the same age as the person who mugged me and I thought that when I reported it to the police, they would probably put my case as a second rated incident. I thought that if I was elderly or more vulnerable, I would have got better help. Another thing about the mugging was that the mugger was black. I didn't really want to report it, in case people would get the wrong idea and would think that I was a racist and it was a grudge against the person. Since that attack, I have found out that I am in a vulnerable position as I am now disabled. What bothers me is that they go around town centres "taxing" other young people and passers by think nothing of it as they probably think that as both victim and robber are of the same age, they are probably just on the same wavelength. These robbers don't have to play truant to do their stuff; they just wait till Saturday and do it then so that people like myself are too afraid to go out at the weekends.
George Handley
Nottingham

The most striking point about the whole programme for me was the fact that no one was worried by the clearly stereotypical portrayal of muggers in Birmingham. If the police are to be believed and young black males are responsible for much of the crime in Britain today then why is it the case that in rural areas where crime rates are rising rapidly the numbers of ethnic minorities are negligible if present at all. Just like the problems faced with the combat of drug abuse people are quick to point the finger at the easiest target. The rise in Drug use is seen as again a "black issue" but anyone who knows anything about drugs will tell you that the majority of money spent on drugs and cocaine particularly in this country is by white middle-class professionals or students. This is an issue that has never been raised by the police who find it easier to blame a black population who have no real voice. Yes young black males are responsible for some of the crime that is being perpetrated in many urban areas, but this hard line policy is only going to have one real result and that is to cause greater friction between the black community and the police and this supposedly isn't what the police want. Let's try and find out the real reason why people commit crimes and try and solve those rather than returning back to the days when men were stopped simply because of the colour of their skin. It's a black and white problem because we live in a black and white society.
Kwaku Boakye-Adjei
London

My three teenage sons and their mates have been robbed numerous times in South Manchester. It's been under-reported in the media and politics because teenage lads aren't as vocal as car-owners in the 'political' world. So we're pleased your programme has been made. I've discussed the programme and these comments with eight of them. As far as the stop and search of suspected thugs goes, we recognise the possibility of racism. But certainly round here, they are more often black than you'd expect. Our kids say it's an attitude thing, that being black means they think they've got to be hard, and these days robbing is the first option in demonstrating hardness. We know that in Salford and Wythenshawe, and probably in Newcastle or other areas with few black people, there's plenty done by white thugs too. But all the police have to do to avoid racist bias, surely, is check the victim reports on racial type of offenders, and ensure the proportion they stop are comparable? Stop and search is a dodgy procedure, and could lead to widespread harassment of young people. But we don't think it's too difficult to spot the types - clothes and haircut can be indicators but body language, hoods pulled down unnecessarily, and neckerchiefs over faces enable the spotting of real thugs. If some non-thugs affect the appearance and body language of thugs, they can't complain if they're stopped, can they? Also the police often do have intelligence on who's most doing it, and can easily target them for stop and search without discriminating or harassing innocent young people.
E McDonnell
Manchester

I think that the police are doing the right thing. In the last 4 years I have seen a lot of crime in B'ham city centre and I think something should be done about it.
Shaz
Birmingham

Has burglary been forgotten? It is my experience that the same people that go out and commit street robbery are also behind many burglaries. It is all the more frustrating when you know who committed the crime, yet due to the law being the way it is, the police are unable to just go and arrest someone on your "Gut Feeling" no matter how certain you may be. I was recently burgled, and I knew who by, however the police could not arrest that person as there was no independent witness. I have been forced to move home, taking the remnants of my business, which was all but destroyed by the thoughtless burglars who saw my PC as just a toy, or something to sell.
G D
Brighton

Three things struck me about this programme: The first is that world they were describing was not so different to the one I inhabited as a child in Manchester, except that the children had more valuable goods to be stolen. None the less what we had, dinner money rather than mobile phones, was just as vulnerable. The second point is the role that the war on drugs, mainly used and accepted by younger people, has in needlessly setting up conflict between the police and young people - especially the war against cannabis. This was true when I was young in the 70's, and with the increase of recreational drug use amongst young people, must be even more true today. These foolish laws result in the criminalisation of large sections of society, especially the young and members of ethnic minorities, and it is no wonder that the people so criminalised are reluctant to trust and support the police. The final point is that, whatever changes have taken place in the ethos of the police and in their methods, they are just as crass as ever when it comes to trying to be pally with youths. I would not have thought that social ineptitude would be a desirable characteristic in such a human centred job, but it seems to be the norm!
Mike Gowland
Hatfield

An excellent programme highlighting the seriousness of street crime in the Birmingham area. I have been mugged at knifepoint three times in the past six months in the town of Walsall where I lived and was afraid to even leave my flat after dark alone. Although I am a strong healthy nineteen year old lad the abundance of violence on the streets made me terrified of anyone who even looked suspicious. I even took to carrying a length of metal pipe when going out despite the fact it was illegal fearing the harm which may befall me far more than any criminal prosecution. A clean criminal record is worthless if you are dead. Despite concerns over the use of the 'stop and search' measures used by police I feel that if a hundred innocent people are stopped for every one attack prevented then the initiative is definitely worthwhile. Being stopped should only be a problem for someone who has something to feel guilty about. Serious action is required to make the streets safe for everyone, not just the most violent people around. I hope police and authorities can find some way of effectively tackling this problem which in some areas is ridiculously out of control. In ten months of living in Caldmore Walsall I was stopped for cash, cigarettes or even clothing a total of seven times, three times with a weapon, and twice suffered violence when I refused to co-operate. I did not report these incidences to police as I felt they could do nothing to help me and such action may cause further problems if the police did actually find the perpetrators. Also both of my flatmates were attacked at different times and one was hospitalised suffering memory loss after a beating. Thank you again for the programme which was definitely the best I have ever seen on the subject and I hope it helped others to appreciate the gravity of the situation as it is today.
Adam Ross
Cannock

Having watched yet another programme about young people and crime, I am again frustrated and angered by the lack of imagination in official places such as politicians and the police, in dealing with this issue. As a young man I was involved in many criminal acts myself. I know that what frightened me away from an area was a vigilant public on the lookout for criminals. I wonder if a simple, cheap, and easy solution would be providing short wave single channel radios to trained members of the public (volunteers), to report all suspicious activity in their areas directly to the police. Descriptions would be immediate, timing instantaneous, and the whole thing would be more effective and cost a lot less than having endless vans full of police officers cruising the streets. As an EX criminal (I have been out of trouble for 15 years) I know the feeling that the person over the road, or looking through their curtains could be in direct touch with the police and giving an accurate and detailed description of me at the time, would have terrified me. What is more, if those people that were trained to do this were instructed to keep it quiet, I would have no idea who they were so reprisals would be non-existent! Unfortunately I had a great deal of experience with crime and I know what makes the average criminal think. That experience is very valuable surely? I am straight now, and very proud of it. I kicked the habit of crime, by the grace of God. Perhaps this little idea, if taken up, would mean I could put something back. If not, well at least I tried.
George Rolph
Bromley

Concerned that the Police are using an item of legislation which had clear objectives on its inception; that being to deal with crimes related to football hooliganism and related crime. However it is now being used with the right to stop and search without suspicion. This must be contrary to the HRA 1998. It is also a misuse of Parliaments' authority in that the legislation is being used for other than that which Parliament originally intended. Should not Police Chief Constables be obliged to use legislation for its original purpose and objective until otherwise changed by Parliament.
Keith Carr
Stockport

Two things :- Calling the Police racist is such a cop-out! If the statistics show that people are from a particular (identifiable) group, then of course they will target that group. To do otherwise would be too dumb even for the coppers! All these kids out mugging and where are their parents!
Andy Wood
London

Having lived in Brixton for 6 years I was not surprised to see that young black males topping the statistics for street crime. I personally have been the victim of 2 street robberies, one of which put me in hospital with a serious eye injury. Both these crimes were perpetrated by black youths. I am not saying that all black people are criminals, indeed nothing of the sort, but there does seem to be a problem in areas of south London with black street crime and also a large degree of racism and bigotry from in particular the West Indian community. I was kind of disgusted by the reactions of many black people who spoke on the programme. There seems to be an unwillingness to approach the subject and to face up to some hard facts. Many of the more radical black thinkers seem to portray black youth as being artists, poets, thinkers etc that are having their potential stifled by the white man. Having lived amongst certain sections of these people I can say that there seems to be a glorification of bad attitude in movements such as the raggamuffins, who have very little positive attributes and whose most common features seem to be aggression, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and idiocy. Why doesn't the black community take a harder line on these idiots rather than trying to divert blame onto wider society. We all know that the police are institutionally racist ,and not just against blacks e.g. look at the hassle given to New Age Travellers and road protestors for example. Also the white community is expected, and rightly so, to expose and distance themselves from neo nazis and other such scum. I don't see much difference between them and the raggas myself. Let's put these idiots, whatever their cultural background on the spot. Then we might get somewhere.
Daxbro
London

Why is it that black people accuse police of being racist when that is not the case? Most muggings that take place in Birmingham are committed by blacks. Why can't the black community understand that? That makes it difficult for the police. That's why so many innocent teenagers are approached. Jon-Marc, who featured on the programme, used to go to my school. He was known for being a bully, but sometimes he was a great guy. I live in Harborne, which I think is the safest place in Birmingham. But I become anxious when I go to places such as Handsworth and the City Centre.
Chris Allen
Harborne, Birmingham

It's the innocent people of Handsworth who are the victims as a result of the West Midlands Police Force's failure to police the streets of Handsworth. The lack of constructive policing in Handsworth has allowed Handsworth to become a criminals haven. The laughable number of police patrolling Handsworth makes it easy for any criminal to commit a crime and avoid capture.
Vinod Karra
Handsworth

Sadly this problem is now prevalent in most of the UK. It was comforting to see that your programme recognises this and that the problem must be dealt with before it ruins every day life.

Young people need to be exposed to the value of kindness and the sensitivities of other people

Chris Smith, Wanstead
If we are to deal with this problem and make quick improvements we need psychologists to work with schools to develop a programme consisting of films, posters, essays, improvisations etc. The programme should be implemented in schools to pupils from the age of say 8 or 9 onward and relentlessly. The poster campaign should run in schools, tube stations and bus stops, cleverly demeaning people who take part in such crimes and guide individuals away from cowardly gang mentality and more toward self respect; raising morale and offering suggestions of more rewarding things to do. Young people need to be exposed to the value of kindness and the sensitivities of other people. It should be taught as Religious Studies and Physical Education are. Our qualified psychologist should be employed extensively in this area. Young abusers need to be made to think about the effect their actions have on people.
Chris Smith
Wanstead

Why is an image portrayed that the muggers are the blacks and asians and the victims are the whites. It was clearly portrayed on last night's programme. How come no 'white' people were interviewed as muggers and very few blacks and asians were interviewed as victims - you're programme last night was sh** and it told half of the story and that scheme the police had was just targeting blacks and asians and very few white, therefore I will take this matter further
Kashif Hussian
Burton-on-trent

It's interesting how this problem is primarily a black minority problem. Other minorities don't winge what a hard time they are given or go round being violent they just get on with it the same as everybody else. If the black minority are incapable as a group of taking responsibility for themselves like the rest of us then they shouldn't be surprised that as a group they are treated with less respect. Respect is earned by putting in effort that others can appreciate not by waving a weapon about. When an unmistakable proportion of a group go round exhibiting this sublevel of behaviour then that group will never be treated equally. They must first want to take responsibility of themselves as a group, however, as yet, there seems little sign of that happening.
Raj
Ealing

I was deeply shocked. Coming from Handsworth myself I was deeply upset in the way you portrayed the area. I am an 18 yr old black girl who has grown up in Handsworth for 14 years and have never in my life known anyone who has been mugged. Not to say that this is not true. I was upset that majority of the people questioned were BLACK. Birmingham has a wide range of areas were I would not personally walk alone. You seemed to miss out areas of highly populated white people such as Chelmsly Wood and Kingstanding. You only seemed to notice Newtown, Lozells and Hockley which may I add are not in Handsworth, like your reporter suggested. I was also disgusted at the way the police approached many of the youths they questioned. Stopping and searching youths for no apparent reason than looking away from a police van is no reason at all to question a person. The programme seemed to say that all the victims were white and all the attackers were black. I am not at all trying to rule out the fact that young black people are committing such offences, I am just trying to suggest that these offences are committed a lot more widely than Newtown and Handswoth. Suggestions would include that next time a programme of such an issue is raised, the victims and attackers are racially equal.
Victoria Ebo
Handsworth, Birmingham

As I said in first email I am of West Indian origin but am third generation so to look you might think I was no more than dark European. I am 43 and have suffered exclusions in the past because of my look, however I cannot hold to this claptrap about you should have more police of the same colour as the criminals and that the so-called "victim" of stop and search would by definition be more respectful. Everybody knows that these so called put upon thieves would then call the officers coconut (black outside white inside) and the like and then use that as a ruse to try to escape blame. These criminals are well versed in using any means necessary and as anyone who knows they take any attempt to help them or kindness towards them as a sign of weakness to be exploited. As the robber in the blue jacket that was stopped showed he convinced the reporter that he did not "do robbery" only car crime which was later proved to be a complete lie - why should this person be given any concession at all. He is a known street robber who presumably uses any tactic to get himself left alone by the powers that be so that he can use the space to perpetuate his chosen pastime and he does choose to do it. He is not forced, there is not some latter-day coffee skinned Fagin controlling these people other than the diatribe of rubbish that is foisted on us all everyday from all corners.
Russell Homan
London

Almost everyone I know either has been or has a close friend, neighbour or relative who has been mugged. My own son in the middle of the day at our local station, my brother-in-law in his car, neighbours on local trains, buses and parks at almost every time of day from morning, mid-afternoon to late evening. No-one has been apprehended in any of these incidents. In almost all cases the perpetrators have been young black men. The social reasons cannot be dealt with by the police, but the effect on the population at large is as reported in your programme - children are (1) growing up with a fatalistic "mugging happens" attitude and (2) we are all having our personal choices restricted (jewellery worn, limiting possessions taken with us) in order to accommodate this. If stop and search is the way to stop these people feeling (as quoted extensively in your programme) that they can more or less take what they want, when they want it, then any restriction on the muggers' "rights" is a small price to pay for reducing the overall threat to society. My teenage son has been stopped and searched by the police at night - we would rather that than the alternative - a society forced into negative reactions to an increasing and apparently uncontrollable threat.
Quetta Kaye
London

Your earlier comments

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
BBC RADIO NEWS
BBC ONE TV NEWS
WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
PROGRAMMES GUIDE











E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Panorama stories