Vulnerable people at Glacis terrorised by youth gang
By Leo Olivero
Simy Herbert is a totally distraught mother and has been that way for nearly two months.
Mrs Herbert was recounting to Panorama that she has a mature son who resides at Glacis estate and who unfortunately due to illness, falls under the vulnerable people social group category in society; her son is also under a constant and controlled medical regime.
This Gang is Terrorising My Son and Others!
Mrs Herbert explained that her son lives alone surrounded by other people who are also government (social cases) housing tenants but are all classed as vulnerable people. This includes elderly people who also share the block in question at Glacis estate.
But serious problems in the area, involving a gang whose ages range between 11 to 14 years, said Mrs Herbert, “started physically and mentally terrorising” not only her son but others residing in the immediate vicinity.
Her vulnerable son since then has been subjected to continued physical threats from this young criminal gang ‘they have forced themselves into his flat (she said) pressed him against a wall and threatened to beat him up if he did not give them money and even cigarettes. They have also damaged property, thrown washing lines all round the place and only a few days set fire to a clothes line belonging to one of the neighbours’.
Mrs Herbert told me that she and other members of her family are not only concerned for the safety of her son but for other residents who reside there, including other vulnerable people (social cases) like Mrs Herbert’s son and elderly folks, who according to her have also been subjected to similar treatment from this group of youngsters who appear to be out of control!
People Cannot Live in Fear
The matter was reported to the police about 3 weeks ago, according to Mrs Herbert the police are investigating these incidents and have been in contact with her. Even though her son was warned by this gang that if he reported the matter to the police they would beat him up!
Mrs Herbert believes the police have identified these youths, but cannot understand why the police have not yet apprehended them, as she fears other members of her family (because of the vulnerability of her son) could provoke them to take matters into their own hands in order to protect her son.
She said: “I feel totally stressed out with the situation I am very concerned for my son and the other people living there. I am not criticising the police, but I want more action from them, more surveillance, these thugs must be caught as soon as possible people cannot live in fear, what is Gibraltar coming to?”
Police Authority Considerable Concern on Crime and Drugs Issues
These incidents follow a similar pattern and fall in line with the general situation regarding crime in Gibraltar, which as our readers will know has been an important social issue that has been extensively covered in Panorama over a number of years. Only a few days ago the Laguna estate youth club was ransacked and damage caused to this facility, it has not been established who carried out these acts.
It is Only Now that official bodies like the Police Authority are publically confirming and registering their own deep concern on what this newspaper has been warning about for years regarding Crime and Drug Abuse in Gibraltar!
Although the case of Mrs Herbert’s son and others living in the area of Glacis estate involves a more serious dimension if that’s possible. As it involves the most vulnerable in our community, people in fact who are traditionally disadvantaged, marginalised and excluded because of a disability for example or other vulnerabilities. These unfortunate members of our society are disproportionately among the poorest and are often victims of violence, discrimination and, as we have heard, abuse.
People should not have to live in fear as Mrs Herbert obviously is for her son’s safety and welfare. It is only right because I’m sure society demands it that cases like these where vulnerable people and the elderly are concerned are stopped as soon as possible, and this so-called young gang of local delinquents are brought to task immediately.
However I have to say that these type of incidents on persons and other similar anti-social behaviour incidents is on the increase and are generally widespread across the globe and the reasons behind them may be many and varied. But it’s here in Gibraltar that we should all be worried about not what happens elsewhere, certainly a plan of action not only by the police by other agencies is in order, as I suspect other social issues may also arise!
However one thing is very clear: this type of crime affects not only the immediate victims themselves and families like in the case of Mrs. Herbert, but also society in general especially its weaker members who fear they too could become targets. It is, therefore, essential that effective prevention strategies are developed and put into practice to address the risks.
Crime Not Only a Police Problem
Research in other countries suggests that a proactive, well-resourced police strategy for dealing with these crime issues can have an impact, especially if it ensures the cooperation and active involvement of all operational officers, not just members of focused teams, and is allied to a rapid and effective reactive capacity.
However, it ought to be kept in mind that the problem of crime in general is not simply a matter for the police to deal with. Police action alone cannot offer the full solution to what is essentially a societal problem!
Energetic early intervention can help to prevent people from engaging in criminal activity, or to halt their criminal careers at an early stage, by identifying and tackling the precursors and corollaries of criminal activity, this is where the causes of crime like Drug and Alcohol Abuse comes up every time.
However, much of this work as I have said countless times over many years lies outside the domain of the police service and requires a more radical and coordinated multi-agency approach to the problem of youth crime, of which drugs, alcohol and other similar activities are elements that must be addressed collectively including the public.
Our Reputation as a Safe Place is Under Threat
Ensuring a coordinated contribution by all key partners to the prevention and reduction of crime would surely be a very good investment. Collaborative action involving the police and a wide range of agencies and services and the public can help to develop and deliver a comprehensive and integrated strategy for community safety.
Gibraltar’s reputation as a safe and secure country could be tarnished or even lost if the apparent rising trend of such crimes is not brought under control and reversed.
The safety in which people can go about their daily lives is one of the key factors in attracting not only foreign residents and tourists but also foreign businesses. It is an advantage which Gibraltar rightly promotes but it also has to be cherished and protected!
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