1980s >> 1987 >> no-999-november-1987

Finding a solution to crime

Never a day goes by without politicians, policemen and the press calling for measures that will make “law and order” enforcement more effective. Many of these schemes are suggested by fully-fledged crackpots like James “off with their goolies” Anderton and are viewed as ridiculous by most people. Heart of the Matter (BBC1. 10.40pm. 4 October) offered us an insight into the latest schemes for detecting and solving crime. We were given a glimpse of the pilot scheme known as “Crimestoppers Anonymous” which is currently in operation in Great Yarmouth where you stand to gain a reward for information that leads to the apprehension and conviction of someone who has committed a serious crime. The local media are used as a means of advertising the specific crime that the police want solved, and of course the reward money. Who are the sponsors of this reward money? Well, guess what, they just happen to be local businessmen who of course want to retain their anonymity. No doubt they just couldn’t stand being congratulated for their humanitarian service to the community!

Some expert saw it as an extension of the neighbourhood-watch schemes and the high-profile TV programme Crimewatch UK. A holy bloke from the Church of England Board of Social Responsibility came on and was sad that “Merrie England” seemed to be losing its sense of “civic duty”. A lefty came mumbling in with remarks like it was a scheme for Thatcher’s ’80s. ie the privatisation of criminal information.

The most sensible statement about Crimestoppers Anonymous was that it resembled game shows —simply phone in and get your reward. Think of the possibilities and the TV ratings. You could grass on your grandparents, finger your father, nark on your neighbours, or simply find the felon in The Price is Right. None of the experts and civil libertarians on this show had anything to say about why people commit crime, they simply talked about the morality of paying for information and wondered why people didn’t come forward with information to help the police solve crimes. No one seemed aware that the porkers have been paying for information (unofficially) since they were set up. No one accepted that many people may well be justified in their suspicion of the police, and of course nobody phoned in with information about the cops having assaulted demonstrators, black youths, passers-by. or men and women on picket-lines. And. incidentally, no one asked why local businessmen were putting up the reward money!

Derek Devine