The first point that has to be clarified here is the meaning of the world violence. There are, after all, many types of violence in our cities, ranging from baby battering to the suppression of political demonstrations by police. For the purposes of this essay I shall limit discussion to the violence which most concerns city dwellers in Britain nowadays: riots, robbery and physical assault on the streets.
What measures can be taken to combat this kind of violence? Well, to begin with, it is often argued that violent crime should be punished more severely. That is to say, more offenders sent to prison, longer prison sentences, and even the reintroduction of the death penalty. The first two ideas seem reasonable, but ignore the problem that our prisons are already full, and also that ex-prisoners are more likely to commit crime than other people. In addition, it is very expensive to keep people in prison. As for the death penalty, there is no hard evidence that it has any effect on the commission of the crimes. Punishing crime more severely, then, does not seem to work.
A more effective measure would be to improve the service provided by the police. More people would say that British policemen should carry guns, but I do not agree, since this would lead to more guns being used by thieves, and consequently more violence, probably involving innocent bystanders. Also, we must remember that not every policeman is phsycologically fit to carry a gun. Nevertheless, certain changes can be made. Firstly, the size of the police force could be increased, by improving salaries and conditions. Equally importantly, the police should receive better training, so that they can deal effectively with trouble without becoming unduly violent themselves. Clearly, a large, well-trained police force must be an important factor in any attempt to tackle crime.
However, none of these ideas deals with the root of urban violence, and that is what I shall turn to for the rest of this essay. It has been said that the stress caused by just living in a modern city is an important factor in making people violent. This may be true, but little can be done about it, since we can hardly all return to the countryside. Similarly, it might be argued that people are naturally violent, and that the only solution is to change ourselves from the inside. Religion, meditation, psychoanalysis and so on might be helpful in this respect, but it is difficult to be optimistic.
It seems to me that another idea might offer more hope. I believe that street crime is mainly caused by the predicament of many young people on leaving school: that is to say, unemployed, with no money and with little hope for the future. No amount of punishment and no police force will deter young people from taking to a life of crime when the law-abiding life which is the alternative is empty of hope, interest and achievement. The solution is clear. The government must ensure that jobs are provided for young people. Until young people have work, money and hope, it will be impossible to walk safely in the streets.
Discuss effective measures for counteracting violence in our cities.
What facts or ideas do you find important?
Have you ever seen or been involved in a crime? Describe it to your group.
Decide which was the most frightening or serious crime. Was anybody apart from the criminals to blame in any of the stories?
Like going shopping
Listen to Martin describing a crime. As you listen, take notes on the details of the incident. Afterwards, compare notes with other students and build up the story of the incident.
Listen again, and answer the following questions:
a) In which city did the crime occur?
b) In what sort of area did the story begin?
c) What was noticeable about the girl?
d) How did the crime begin?
e) What seemed to be happening at first?
f) When did he realise what was already happening?
g) 'Either option seems ridiculous.' What are the options mentioned?
h) What else could Martin have done? Why didn't he do it?
i) How did the other passengers react during the crime? And afterwards?
j) How many criminals were involved?
k) How did the girl react after the crime?
l) 'It's like shopping.' What does Martin mean by this?
m) Why was it lucky that there was no policeman on the bus?
Listen again, filling the gaps in the following. Each line represents a word or abbreviation.
a) … it's a pretty ____ ____, suspect, grotty neighbourhood.
b) … she was very well-groomed, ____ ____ ____ .
c) … who was a poor-looking sort of chap, a bit ____, leaned over …
d) … the basic one being 'What ____ ____ ____ ____ ____ now?
e) … obviously you don't grab the bloke, because the gun will ____
f) … my mind was just numb, I couldn't ____ it ____ at all.
g) … I didn't bother, I just ____ ____ , I was very shocked, very shaky.
h) … there would have been a ____ ____ .
Match these meanings to seven of the expressions above.