- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 18, 2005

LONDON — The British government has ordered the army onto the streets to join an all-out summer campaign against anti-social drunken and violent behavior by rowdy youths.

Military police and ordinary uniformed soldiers will help keep youngsters under control in up to 20 towns and cities near military barracks.

The strategy comes as police forces in more than 230 towns and cities begin a clampdown on disorderly behavior by alcohol-fueled youngsters, in response to a Home Office survey showing a disturbing rise in youth crime.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke asked the Ministry of Defense to support police forces around the country after an experiment in the town of Royston in Hertfordshire, where uniformed Redcaps — military police — were deployed to crack down on late-night violence by drunken youths.

Their patrols were judged a success and the Redcaps are now seen regularly on the streets, alongside Hertfordshire beat police, in the small market town, where local officers have welcomed them.

One officer said that although the military police are armed only with a baton similar to that used by ordinary police, their uniforms and military training deter antics from getting out of hand.

Until this experiment, military police, who have the same powers of arrest as ordinary police officers, have patrolled only in major military centers. Now regular patrols will begin in towns and cities near military bases.

A spokesman for Liberty, the civil rights organization, expressed concern. “Until now the armed forces have only been used on the streets of Northern Ireland in recent years and we need to be very careful about using them on the mainland in peacetime,” he said.

A senior Defense Ministry official said: “We do not expect hundreds of troops on the streets, but we would think the very presence of unarmed troops will deter bad behavior.”

Ordinary soldiers have no powers of arrest and will not directly intervene in boisterous behavior, but will act as a “calming and pacifying” influence, Home Office officials said. They would only intervene directly in the unlikely event of widespread civil disturbance.

More than 230 towns and cities including Blackpool, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham and several London boroughs, have been listed for special police measures this summer. Extra police and civilian police assistants will be drafted on Friday and Saturday nights as part of a zero-tolerance crackdown against drug-taking, under-age drinking and violence.

In some areas curfews will be imposed, allowing police to clear groups of youths from the street after 9 p.m.

The measures were prompted by a wave of violent incidents involving teenage gangs including the “happy slapping” craze, where teenagers attack their victim and film the assault on a mobile phone.

In May, Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to curb anti-social behavior and promote a culture of “respect.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide