Confronting litterers

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you saw someone dropping a cigarette packet or a chocolate bar wrapper on the ground ? Have you ever been tempted to go up to someone who you saw dropping a drink can and saying “do you mind picking that up and putting it in the bin, please ?”. Have you ever been tempted, when you have seen someone chucking an ice-cream wrapper from a car, to pick it up and chuck it back into the car ?

Well, I’m sure that some of us have great intentions of taking on the “litter louts” when we see them spoiling our environment with their antisocial behaviour.

But, when it comes to it, some past and some very recent events indicate that you may be taking a huge risk by tackling these people. In fact you might be wise not only to stick to the old adage “if in doubt, then don’t” but also to add “and even if you’re not in doubt, then you should be”.

The sad fact is that there is an increasing catalogue of horror stories of terrible violence perpetrated against those people who are brave enough to challenge and confront antisocial behaviour.

On 5th August 2007, Evren Anil challenged a group of youths in Peckham, one of whom had thrown a half-eaten chocolate bar into his sister’s car. The tragic price for his heroism was his life.

Then, on 10th August 2007 there was the case of Garry Newlove who lived in a street in Warrington that was constantly plagued by unruly youngsters. He confronted them and he, too, paid with his life. His brave widow, Helen, has fought tirelessly for more community policing, support for families hit by antisocial behaviour and a clampdown on parents of problem youths.

And, only eight days ago on June 13th, we heard about Stephen White from Bexleyheath who approached a group of around 25 youngsters near his house after spotting them smashing bottles on the ground. The youths surrounded him before two of the gang members hit him on the head with bottles. He then fell to the floor before being repeatedly kicked in the head. He was lucky, ending up with only a broken nose, cuts to his face and head, two badly swollen eyes and a split lip ……..and a visit to the casualty department.

It is worth remembering that many (if not most) of the people who really don’t care about dropping litter are of a generally antisocial nature (see the blog for
31st May 2008) and will not think twice about resorting to violent behaviour. This is, of course, even more likely if the miscreant is high on drugs and doesn’t really know what he’s doing.

So my message now to anyone thinking of playing the hero is : “don’t”. Your life is worth infinitely more than a piece of litter. By all means pick the litter up after it’s been dropped and the dropper has gone, but please don’t allow yourself to give in to a flurry of impulsive bravado – you may be putting yourself in more serious danger than you ever imagined.

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