Violence in Chelsea

Visiting my friend’s cafe on Thursday evening, I was alerted to an unusually large police presence in central Chelsea. I initially dismissed it as being because of the large number of beach-goers combined with the fact there is a large police station on Chelsea Road, likely doing patrols for the broader area.

The following day, reports in the media suggested something more nefarious. Aside from the relatively benign idiotic confrontation between some jet-skiers, the primary cause of concern to police was the attempted robbery and assault of beach visitors by petty thieves.

The Age is now alleging these thieves to be part of a ‘gang’ responsible for assaults in the western suburbs as well as the events in Chelsea and, earlier in the year, in St Kilda. I would question, firstly, whether it is reasonable to refer to the group as a gang given that there is no apparent organisational hierarchy, coordination, or other attributes commonly found in organised crime. It would appear that they can, at best, be defined as young thugs, or petty criminals. The Melbourne Mafia would eat these kids for breakfast, or perhaps hire them to make breakfast. This distinction of ‘gang’ not being applicable is reinforced by Victoria Police being historically unwilling to label the associated demographic1 as such, both for the reason that they don’t meet their criteria, and so that they don’t aspire to claim such a label in future.

Further issue is to be found in the Age’s coverage of the events in Chelsea. Mainly, their use of witnesses, none of whom are (known) residents of Chelsea, and who do not claim to have directly witnessed the events at all. One is a couple from Greensborough, the other a woman from Heathmont. Two local business owners were also interviewed, who of course were not present at the time and could offer only understandable concern for their trade.

Police are to be commended with the rapidity and strength with which they responded and continue to make patrols of Chelsea. I think the issue is probably gone and was just passing through in any case. Chelsea and its neighbouring suburbs have very low crime rates and are rarely witness to specifically violent crimes. It is likely the unexpectedness of crime in a low crime area which made this front page news the following day. Perhaps it was also to do with the ethnic origin of the perpetrators.

That these people deserve to be held accountable for their violence is unquestionable. However, that we (and the media) must stop hyperventilating every time a black person commits a crime is certainly a notion we should entertain. People have the potential to suck no matter their racial background, and as a liberal democracy we should understand this and use different tactics2 to confront the issue that don’t involve further isolation and discrimination towards the perpetrators. Ending the cycle of crime is certainly much easier whilst the criminal is young and open to impression, both positive and otherwise.

Notes

  1. Young male African immigrants.
  2. Youth engagement programmes, English classes, job and educational opportunities, etc.