Above are the pictures of Alan Barnes and his attacker Richard Gatiss. It was only a few weeks ago that we were all shocked that anyone would think it was a good idea to attack a man who was as weak and vulnerable as Mr Barnes and donations came in by the hundreds to help him. While that is fantastic you do question why, when we are constantly told crime rates are dropping, this kind of thing appears to be more common than ever.
Today there was a story about a pregnant woman attacked in her own home. A 22-year-old woman in London who was in the first throws of contractions was attacked by a group of masked burglars with crowbars as they tried to rob her. They left her with a fractured skull but thankfully she got to hospital and gave birth to a healthy child.
Then there’s the attack on the 92-year-old widower, knocked to the ground and robbed for £5. His assailant followed him into the communal entrance of his home and left him with a shoulder injury. This was a fiercely independent man who was mugged for no good reason. I could go on about the murder of Becky Watts; the Jihadist in Manchester who was a chemistry teacher; the heavily armed gang in St Andrews who robbed a shop – but you do wonder why the hell things are going so wrong.
This country isn’t Broken Britain, but parts of it are fucked. There is a real sense of violence in crimes being committed – and I’m not naive enough to think that this is anything new – but the victims seem to have a common factor. All these thugs are attacking the most vulnerable in society – a disabled man, a pregnant woman , a 92-year-old widower. The question is why? Why are they picking on these specific groups? Ones that are unlikely to yield much in terms of financial gain.
I wonder if it’s because we are losing that sense of community that cares for these people. As much as I admire those who give money after the event, how many of those people know and look in on similarly placed people in their own neighbourhoods? Giving after the event is a good thing, but caring beforehand might be a more powerful message and stop these people becoming targets at all. It’s not a magic wand solution but knowing and looking out for our neighbours, instead of becoming the insular nation we appear to be, would go a long way to ensuring the community spirit and a sense of protection could exist. Many blame the “Thatcher’s Children” demographic of everyone out for themselves – but we have to be better than that.
As much as people mock neighbourhood watch schemes as “curtain twitchers” and worry about the gossips and nosey neighbours if we all go to know those around us you’d find there are lonely and vulnerable people all around us and with a little support we could re-develop that rather old fashioned idea of community again.