Wednesday 7 April 2010

Handling or dealing with trouble or troublemakers on the canal.

We are all increasingly aware of the breakdown in general behaviour in our society. It's not just the preserve of our streets. It is coming to a canal near you.

Here are a few recent items on anti-social behaviour.
Attackers Jailed
Under Fire

Anti-social behaviour problems along the canal are something everyone wants to avoid. But sooner or later you will experience these issues. You might experience anti-social behaviour in many different ways. Not only from groups of young people on the towpath but also from other boaters. Ranging from threats and insults, un-mooring of boats and setting them adrift, loud music and parties into the early hours, spitting and stone throwing, even shooting, there is a whole range of possible scenarios.
  • Do you it feel intimidated by the prospect of this sort of thing?
  • What are you going to do about it, if it should happen to you?

Can you afford to ignore what goes on around you.
The authorities are perceived as being reluctant to take action about anti-social behaviour because of a lack of any real pressure from anyone to do anything. The temptation for boaters is to wait until they get bored and go away. The evidence points to the problems with anti-social behaviour being created by cheap alcohol by supermarkets. However, you should still report it to your local BW office. BW need to be made aware of the anti-social hot-spots and their locations.

Not everyone wearing a hooded top is what's described in the newspapers as a “hoodie” Remember everyone, is welcome to use the towpaths. Treat them as possible hostiles if you must.  However, don't make any assumptions based on the way someone is dressed. Young people in general have been given an undeservedly bad reputation. It is a very small minority of almost feral children that deserve that reputation.

You could try to interact with the young people who hang around bridges and locks. Start by trying to strike up a conversation, they may respond reasonably well. Even a simple “hello and how are you” might be enough to break the ice. The vast majority of young people are quite friendly. It just that we are not in their peer group and they don't know how to react to us. For most youngsters, the “oldies” are the ones who always complain about them playing football or congregating in the street or corners. Young people are more boisterous, lively and energetic, yes, they smoke, yes they drink, yes they like to enjoy themselves. Yes, we all have short memories – after all we were never like that in our younger days. Were we?

You need an anti-social behaviour tool kit. Including a mobile phone, air horn, camera and a high power flash light, notepad, pen and a strong pair of lungs. Beware of reaction overkill and never ever pre-empt an escalation in hostilities.

  • Mobile phone, with the local police number pre-programmed in to call for help.
  • Camera, to take photographs.
  • Flash light, to illuminate, startle and dazzle people at night.
  • Notepad, to make notes of the time and to record descriptions.
  • Lungs, shouts and screams will help to disorientate.
  • Air horn, nothing better for waking up other boaters or people living close by.

Baldricks Cunning Plan.
You need to have a plan of action at the ready. You may need to respond with quick decisive steps to protect yourself and your family. A plan that everyone on board is aware of, that you have discussed and that each one knows exactly what to do. Your plan should have different levels of response, from ignoring the issue until morning, to being proactive and immediate in dealing with the situation before it gets out of hand. Your plan goes some way to putting you in charge of the situation.

Get the Police involved at the first sign of anti-social behaviour.
It's generally thought by law abiding people that the police are useless at dealing with anti-social behaviour. That nothing will happen unless you actually retaliate and do something to those behaving irresponsibly. Then at that point you will have the full weight of the law upon your head. This being perceived by the public as the police protecting those anti-social individuals.

There is some merit in making that assumption. A word of caution though, knives and guns are being carried now by thugs so don't put yourself at risk by getting involved in a full on confrontation. I don't know anyone who has been able to reason with a thug, drunk or drug addict. They have nothing to loose and you have a great deal. The police do not have officers patrolling the towpath. They do not have a crystal ball. They try to be proactive but the vast majority of their work is reactive. You need to bring such issues to their attention and to ensure that they are recorded. Report all incidents to the police. Some forces now practice zero tolerance to binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Defending yourself or self survival.
You are entitled to use reasonable force to protect yourself, other people or your property. But the action of defending yourself changes to one of retaliation, if the anti-social behaviour has already happened. There is no room for uncontrolled rage or vigilantes.

This means dialling 999 in an emergency or dialling their “local” number if it is not a real emergency.

BW and their role.
BW lengthsman should have the appropriate form for you to fill out, regarding any incident, accidents, anti-social behaviour or vandalism. However, when was the last time you saw a lengthsman! Maybe next time you see one you should ask for a couple of spare copys just for recording instances upon. You could then send it in to the area BW office. Alternatively you could just write to the area office, giving whatever details you have and ask for an acknowledgement.

Do you have a 2 way radio, mobile phone, or anything that resembles such an item. - even if they don't look like phones or radios. It can create some doubt in the typical miscreants mind and lead to them going away.

Still and Video Cameras.
Use a camera to identify those individuals already causing problems. Remember that if you start pre-emptively videoing or taking photographs of minors, some police officers will fail to see the bigger picture and go into “Knacker of the Yard” mode. You may well end up on a Gary Glitter type of charge. However, there is nothing wrong with videoing a section of the canal and if the video or camera should also contain images of people who cause problems as well. Then that's is a different matter.

If you have photographs or video's of people you thought were going to cause a problem but subsequently they did not, then I would delete them rather than have a collection of images of children and others from along the canal which might be misconstrued by the police at a later date.

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