Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: Police

Fear; it’s a cover up and it’s wrapped up.

Be safe, feel safe. This is the mantra of Avon and Somerset Police, it’s part of the nine crime plans across the West of England and the Police and Crime Commissioner believes the phrase encapsulates all she is trying to achieve. The reality is that overall crime rates are falling by every measure and, despite less police officers being on the streets, you are safer now than you have ever been. Yes, certain crimes are on the rise, cyber crime seeing the biggest increase of all, but you are safer than you have been for many years. Yes you really are. You don’t feel it though do you? The fear of crime is significantly greater than the reality of crime.

There is a whole industry out there playing to your fears and hoping to make you feel safer. It preys on your fears, creates and magnifies your fears and uses the odd incident or accident to make you more fearful it could happen to you too. Nothing makes this more clear than the industry that makes covers for mobile phones. Every phone designed is made as a complete object. It’s not made to fail, to fall apart or not to withstand the odd accidental drop so why would you buy a cover for a phone? Fear. You buy the mobile phone cover fearful that if you don’t have one you might damage your phone. Do you honestly think that the brains at Apple or Samsung created their cutting edge technology, starting selling it and then thought ‘bugger, I wish we’d made a cover for it.’

Other examples of fear being turned into a business include wrapping your suitcase in cling wrap to protect it. Think about this. Shrink wrapping your suitcase; that’s putting a cover on a case, which is already a cover. If your suitcase needs to be wrapped in cling film buy a better case.

The cycle helmet is another product of fear. July this year saw all children who ride a bike aged under 14 on the Channel Island of Jersey without a helmet risk a £50 fine for their parents. The debate rages in the UK over the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets but I’ve yet to find any empirical evidence that they work. Maybe you can point me to it? I’ve heard of accidents that might have been different if a cycle helmet was worn but the key word there is ‘might’. There may be lots of reasons to wear a cycle helmet, feeling safer being one of them but there is little real evidence or research to prove you ARE safer wearing a cycle helmet. And where wearing cycle helmets has become compulsory, like Australia, rates of cycling have fallen. The reality seems to be that a bit of polystyrene perched on your head makes you feel safe with out a doubt, but will it make you be safe?

Some media and certainly some newspapers trade on your fears and who is to blame for it. The more fears they create the better and, as we get older, we become more fearful. My own recent experiences of cycling to work and riding water slides on holiday have proved this to me, until I found my inner ‘child’ again.

So the next time some tries to sell you a cover for a phone, wrap your case in cling film or make you wear a protective anything please, at the very least, question it and don’t be afraid to do so.

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Boozy Bristol after dark

It’s the Wild West out there on the streets of Bristol at night, especially at the weekend. Lawless, drunken, riddled with drugs, sex, all fueled by cheap booze and falling morality. It is the beginning of the end and every town is like it.

No. This is just plain wrong. I was wrong, the Sodom and Gomorrah image we are being sold is wrong. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, so said Franklin D Roosevelt and he would say the same about the streets of Bristol on a Saturday night, had he seen what I saw.

The reason I went out was to test the assertion that Bristol city centre is full of young, drunk, drugged people who are badly behaved and off their heads on drink. Alcohol costs the city millions in management and health issues; it causes many social problems and leads to crime and general lawlessness. Yes this may happen, but it is not the whole story. The late night economy in Bristol, with bars open until 5am and clubs closing at 6am is a result of changing attitudes, culture and laws. Bristol is responding to this and doing rather well because of it too.

The Habourside was my first port of call, a mixture of bars and restaurants all offering a differing propositions for the young and the not so young. I went into two of the bars and they were busy, happy places and both were a mixture of all ages. The door staff outside a bar on Park Street I spoke to earlier had told me that Habourside is where the Saturday nights out start, or on Corn Street. What I saw was a lot of people having a very good time, some quite loudly. And I saw a lot of young women, in groups, in black dresses moving, well more teetering on infeasible shoes from bar to bar. Then it changed.

As the night headed towards the witching hour the gender balance changed. It was men in a the majority, young men in their 20’ and early 30’s, loud and boisterous but I would venture no more loud than I was when I was that age, or Mods were in the 60’s or 80’s, or Teddy boys were in the 50’s. Twas ever thus? The bars were now full and ques forming inside and out, good-natured and patient.

Then it was off to College Green and Park Street, now much busier than when I walked down it earlier in the evening. Outside the bars young men and women were smoking and the sweet smell of cannabis that had intermittently wafted around me all night returned again. I spoke to a young girl who was celebrating her 19th birthday with two friends. She was out to get ‘wasted’. That was her answer to my question about how she would judge her night to be a good night. She was not alone. Another group said the same, so did a stag party in fancy dress outside The Hippodrome. They were walking by as theatre-goers left a performance by the French Ballet. Both were having their own versions of a good night. There was and is room for all.

As I walked up Park Street there were many young women dressed for the summer on a cold November night mixing with men in Christmas jumpers, stag and hen parties all queuing to get in to the bar or club they would stay in until they could drink no more. They jostled with each other and the on coming traffic. The more sober supported those who had peaked too soon. Many had peaked to soon or were about to start the final ascent of Mount Booze. By now every bar or club had long, good-natured ques and pavements were a mix of the happy, the merry and the drunk with small, trickling steaming streams emanating from dark shop doorways trickling down towards College Green.

Was it intimidating? No. Was it a night out I could enjoy? Yes. Did I feel safe? Yes. There was police visible on foot and horseback, every bar had door personnel, and the crowds were out for a good time and were mostly having one.

Here are my concerns.

Speaking to a group of young men and then a group of young girls standing in a long queue outside a club on Clifton Triangle it was the money they spent to have a good time. One young man spent half his weekly wage on each Saturday night out, the same for another young woman. Neither was ‘foolish’ or ‘feckless’ or a front-page image for a black top tabloid paper. Nights out in Bristol are what they live for. Drinking was part of that, before they went out and while they were out.

Bristol has seen a 42% increase in hospital admissions attributable to alcohol in the last 6 years so something is clearly wrong, but it’s not just the city centre’s fault.

We all have a problem with alcohol and this week on BBC Radio Bristol I’m going to try to make sense of why.

Rape is wrong, right?

I have had busy couple of weeks, covering many different topics too on my BBC programme but one topic has struck a chord with my listeners more than any other.

Rape.

On the phone in element of Thursdays programme we discussed the ‘this is not an excuse’ campaign launched in Bristol. The four different hard-hitting billboard posters throughout the city follows the success of the campaign in Scotland, based on a Rape Crisis message. It provoked the expected response but we also heard all sides of the issue. And we heard from victims too who we could not put to air, but I hope we helped. We took calls from victims of rape who have never reported the crime committed against them.

Rape is wrong. The posters are hard-hitting and if you have yet to see them I would urge you to take a look at thisisnotanexcuse.org.uk. Please take a long, hard, thought-provoking look. Then consider the message.

It is quite simple. There is no excuse for rape. None. It is a crime, it is about power, subjugation, it has no place in any society and the only person to blame is the perpetrator. Simple. But no, it’s not simple. If only it was really that simple. To make it that simple is wrong.

There should be NO doubt that ANY victim of rape, be they a woman or man (40 men got raped in the West in the last year as well as 420 women) be guilty. But is the perpetrator of this crime wholly and totally guilty for his or her actions? Yes, women can rape too. Is every rapist just guilty and it is for them alone to stand and fall by their horrendous crime and accept that they alone are the singular instigator and mastermind? Or are we all, in some way, guilty for an over sexualized society where sex sells everything, breasts and bums are on show in daily newspapers and porn is a couple of clicks away on any PC or tablet? Is it really acceptable to dress in a way that celebrates being attractive as nothing more than ‘get it here’ sex? To answer that last question is to go out in any of our towns or cities in the West on a Saturday night and reach your own conclusion.

Rape is about power and it is not about sex. But sex is the route to this power. You should be able to wear what you want, where you want without fear of attack or worse. And ‘no’ should mean ‘no’. Rape is not a feminist issue, a police matter or a poster campaign. It is about all of us and the blackest part of our today.

Most rapes are silent, not violent and between those who know each other. Only 15% of all rapes are ever reported. This has to be about more than just the shame and the intimacy of being the victim of the most violating of crimes. It must be about how we judge sex, all sex has become and what it means from our daily newspapers, TV, social media through to easily accessible porn. The message is that if you have sex, you must have wanted it, because we all do. That is the how the sexual message is sold. And the not reporting of the crime of rape is the consequence because the victim thinks it is their fault. It isn’t.

Rape is unacceptable. Any victim should feel that she or he can report the crime, be treated fairly and respectfully through the due process of criminal law and that the outcome reflects the nature of the crime. The only bit of this we have got right so far is that rape is unacceptable. The rest is slow work in progress.

This says more about our society today than many other things.

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