Monday, September 05, 2005

No danger of 'yob culture' making a comeback, says RGP

Chief Inspector Gomez Confident of Gib policing future

F Oliva reports

Increasing social awareness and civic responsibility of individuals through education is the best means to control local anti-social behaviour, RG Police Chief Inspector Jay Gomez has declared in an interview with the Chronicle.

And he said that problems related to law and order in Gibraltar should neither be “exaggerated nor played down” but taken in their real measure.

“Gibraltar is a fantastic place to live in, we should not undervalue our qualities,” he declared.

Mr Gomez also responded to concerns expressed by sections of public opinion about a potential re-emergence of the yob culture rampant in the early 1990’s, and criticisms that police was not on top of the problem.

He said there would always be a criminal element that would make its presence felt, but this did not mean there was a serious danger of yob culture making a comeback to the Rock in any significant scale.

Mr Gomez said the amount of people they processed through the courts at the present time was not indicative that they were turning their backs on this.

The RGP, he continued, would in all events continue to welcome constructive criticism from the community.

“We are worried that people should think we are not doing enough. I think we are but perhaps we can do better and improve in those areas that can be improved.”

Mr Gomez also issued a message of reassurance to the community, and to the criticism that there were not enough policemen in the streets. He said that that despite the policing demands they faced, which at times required drawing up priorities, they would continue to have as highly visible a presence as possible while also meeting operational needs to deal with specific instances.

Cautionary System

And although he believes there is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to enforcing the law against serious crimes on the Rock, he also defends the policy of cautioning offenders for smaller misdemeanours regardless of age or sex, to keep them outside the judicial system.

“Individuals,” he said “are deserving of a second chance. We are all human and we all err. Does that mean that we should be condemned for the rest of our life for a mistake?” he asks.

Mr Gomez has great faith in this system because it teaches people who accept their guilt a short sharp lesson, and generally has a good success rate in preventing them from getting involved in any other incident after that, even if some people need two doses of the ‘treatment.’

The policy introduced with the Attorney General’s consent along the lines of a similar scheme up set up in Liverpool in the 1950’s, is now used world-wide and can be applied in cases such as drunk and disorderly, possession of small amounts of drugs or threatening behaviour.

Human and Material Resources

The problem of a lack of human, material and financial resources was always a consideration not just for the local police force, but very much with all police forces the world over.

Mr Gomez recognised that enormous progress had been made in recent years, but the police had to be prepared for the new challenges around the corner such as the Eastside development, the prospects of a wider frontier and an expanded airport that would generate extra manpower and material requirements.

CCTV Cameras

Mr Gomez who is also a law graduate, believes that CCTV cameras would be a very valuable tool for the gathering of evidence by police, and as seen after the terror bombings in London, had proved invaluable in tracking down and identifying suspects.

He recognised there were people who viewed this as an item of intrusion of privacy, but was confident that given strict guidelines for their use by a professional police force, the advantages for their installation around Gibraltar far outweighed any disadvantages such as the claims of abuse of civil rights.

Mr Gomez said he did not think there were any objections to introducing CCTV from the Gibraltar Government and that it was a question of funding and deciding where these cameras would be located, how many there would be, who would monitor them and who the information would be fed to.

Anti-Social Behaviour

Mr Gomez said there was a need to identify and define what anti-social behaviour was. He said this related to an interference with somebody else’s quality of life but was not necessarily related to delinquency or delinquent behaviour.

He gave the example of instances of anti-social behaviour locally that involved normal people, and gave the example of a person who listens to loud music in his house at any time of day and disturbs a neighbour who has an opposite taste in music, or someone who makes an inordinate amount of noise while parking a motorbike. He said this was a minuscule problem and there were ways of dealing with it.

Then there was vandalism and criminal damage to property and anti-social behaviour related to delinquency of the type which had become a major problem in UK and also existed on the Rock but in smaller proportions.

Mr Gomez reckons that education that plays a vital part in increasing the civic responsibility of citizens that allows the containment of anti-social behaviour as a manageable problem.

Asked to comment on remarks by the Police Consultative Community Group suggesting that closure of Herbert Miles Road would do away with speeding and dangerous driving in the area, Mr Gomez described this as “a draconian measure.”

Patrolling Private Housing Estates

Mr Gomez also replied to questions regarding the doubts surrounding access to private housing estates, and reiterated that the whole of Gibraltar was accessible to the RGP.

He said they would attend to a criminal offence but a different matter was they being called to enforce estate rules, unless a criminal offence was being committed.

“We are not scared, unable or not allowed to go into any estate in Gibraltar. Where a criminal offence is committed the police will respond to it, but we cannot enforce civil liabilities between a resident and his landlord or management company.”

He added that officers patrolled regularly and equitably throughout Gibraltar subject to operational demands and resources.

He added that in his policing career of over 20 years, he had understood that every day was different, “and that you learn something new each day.”

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