It takes a special form of twisted logic to look at the latest crime figures and think they’re a bad thing. However I do find myself looking at the latest crime figures and wondering if a fall in crime is really a positive statement of life in modern Britain.
Things have definitely changed over the last decade. I no longer feel the need to travel armed. Simply walking the streets late at night feels different, lacking that degree of suburban menace found when turning a corner and see the cast of a Clockwork Orange etching their graffiti on a pensioner. It’s rare that you hear of a car being stolen thanks to the same advances in technology that make it impossible to have them repaired at a garage. Home break-ins aren’t as prevalent as they once were thanks mainly to double glazing and the fact we’re now allowed to practice farmer justice and blow intruders away with our illegally held shotguns. The only crimes I now witness tend to be crimes of inconvenience: people parking blocking pavements because they’re too lazy to walk the extra metre to their front door.
The politicians tell us that it’s because policing has improved and home owners do more to protect themselves. I’m not so sure. From where I view the world, it seems that it’s people that have changed. Bored kids left to wander the streets have become glassy-eyed kids sitting in their bedrooms staring at cheaply produced flat screen TVs or their ubiquitous mobile phones. Drinking has gone from a rowdy social activity done every Friday night to something done cheaply and silently every night behind cheap curtains, where the only evidence of a serious wine habit are the crates of green bottles left out for the recycling each week.
I sense that those given to crime are simply too lazy to bother. They have more interesting things to do. I look at the crime figures and feel thankful that we’re percentage points less likely to be victims of crime but I do wonder what the cost is to our culture. The same reason that people are too bored to steal is because even the criminals share our cultural malaise. The lower crime rates are intimately linked with those that suggest that fewer people vote, take part in debates, or get involved in their local community. It’s the same reason neighbours rarely speak to neighbours and why our high streets are failing except for sports casual shops and the army of pimpled freaks ready to convince you to upgrade your mobile phone. It’s the same reason people don’t read books and only take notice of anything local if some big-name trollop from London is involved. People want everything to be easy. Nothing valuable is hard won these days.
I know I’m jaded. I don’t want more crime but neither do I want us continuing down this road to a world of momentary pleasures crammed between ever longer working hours. It’s a world conceived by Ray Bradbury in Fahrenheit 451 as a dystopian future but it feels ever more like the dystopian present, where life is ‘one big pratfall […]; everything bang, boff, and wow!’