As a victim of crime, this is a bit of a personal rant from a grumpy old man. If you are of the politically-correct persuasion, you may not like what follows, but please read on.
For the second time within a year I’ve had my car badly vandalised in the centre of Worthing.
Last time it was keyed on virtually every panel and cost the insurers more than £1,000; this time with the damage inflicted, it will probably cost even more.
By the way it was done, I suspect it was the same person. The police tell me that I was not the only victim that night.
Virtually everyone I’ve spoken to agrees the culprit deserves what in my day was referred to as a ‘good hiding’.
But instead, if caught, I understand the current penalty for a guilty plea would be under 40 hours’ community service, automatically cut by two thirds if they are under 18.
I come from the ‘it didn’t do me any harm’ era, with loving parents who occasionally got the cane out if we stepped out of line.
I went to an old boys’ school, a tough school with a number of pupils called ‘the lads’.
They were ‘hard’, but they didn’t like the cane and allegedly, if that didn’t work, the real problem lads were taken into the gym and ‘taught a lesson’ by the PE masters.
That was back in the 1970s, although if I had been 15 years or so older, discipline would have continued through young adulthood with military or national service, and most of the ‘lads’ of the time would probably have been straightened out by the experience.
There was also the ‘cuff round the ear’ by the police.
There were many aspects of these regimes that weren’t right and positions of power were abused by some, but it also worked. There was little or no vandalism back then.
Since then the approach to punishment has got softer and softer, the problem of criminality and anti-social behaviour has got worse and worse.
I’m told that in many areas a small number of serial offenders are responsible for a high proportion of crime and while the police generally know who they are, the Criminal Justice System simply does not work, particularly for young offenders.
However, the message from the do-gooders is that too many people are sent to prison.
It is always about the criminal’s human rights and rehabilitation, even though it is obvious that many are lost causes.
Well, the softly, softly approach isn’t working and most people are more concerned about the human rights of their victims.
We are not talking about those who make a mistake or youthful hi-jinks that are occasionally pushed too far, it is those who systematically abuse the law with anti-social and criminal behaviour that ruins people’s lives.
Finding a safe place to park my car is an inconvenience, as is the choice of whether to open a bedroom window overnight and get woken up by foul-mouthed abuse or make do without fresh air.
But the more vulnerable are frightened, perhaps changing how they live and staying indoors.
We need a tougher alternative to the failure of ‘David Cameron’s Hug a Hoodie’-type approach.
We are not going to return to corporal punishment, but need to control these people, so it is better to lock them up to keep them off the streets. If they reoffend lock them up again.
Give them so many chances, but if they persist throw away the keys. If we need more prisons, build them.
Theresa May said enough was enough after the London Bridge terrorist attack – and someone should be saying enough is enough about anti-social behaviour.
The government’s duty is to protect the public, but successive governments, hamstrung by political correctness, won’t deal with an obvious problem.
Continue to ignore it and we could end up with the likes of a Trump in power.
* Phil Bristow of Nsure writes monthly in the Worthing Herald