Telegraph – A bitter cocktail of racial tension and gang culture

It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between parts of Birmingham and South Central Los Angeles. That is not just a tragedy for a major British city: it is a disgraceful state of affairs.

I thought indigent, violent, black youths were a result of this country’s shameful racial past and inability to correct it? A projection of our infamy from behind the veil the middle class has cast over whole communities? And a problem unique to clay-footed nation?

The stabbing of a young black man on Saturday night followed an evening of chaos in which hooded rioters threw missiles, shot a policeman in the leg, looted shops and set fire to cars. The trigger for the crimes was a report that a 14-year-old Afro-Caribbean girl had been raped.

So far, there is no confirmed evidence for this claim, but that did not stop the rumour of a “gang rape” by “Asian businessmen” from spreading through Birmingham’s black community, gathering lurid details along the way.

All equally believable, I’m sure.

At the root of this problem lies the infestation of first the black and now the Asian population of inner-city Birmingham by gang culture. The easily availability of guns has already led to a tragedy within the black community: the shooting of two teenage girls outside a hairdresser’s salon in Aston in 2003.

I thought guns were illegal?

It has also contributed to the poisoning of relations between the city’s Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani citizens – though one would have been hard pressed to work this out from the report on the BBC’s website yesterday, which relegated any mention of ethnicity to paragraph 14.

There were no white people, so they didn’t know who to victimize.

We could debate endlessly the role of such squeamishness in concealing and exacerbating an alarming breakdown in race relations; we could also discuss the part played by gangsta rap music in glamorising violence. But it takes years to turn cultural tides – if it can be done at all.

Sure it can be. Just don’t have Tony Blair invite 50 Cent, Dre, and R. Kelly over to 10 Downing Street for any frank discussions.

What can be done is to address a failure of policing. If armed young men are roaming the streets, they need to be searched. Clearly, this is not happening, in Birmingham or elsewhere. Why? Some policemen say their hands are tied by a post-Macpherson culture of political correctness.

See: The Policeman’s Blog. Which is currently down because he doesn’t want to get fired.

But what is also true is that it is easier to prosecute traffic offenders than to challenge knife-wielding youths. There is too much of the former; not enough of the latter. It is as simple as that.

The Birmingham riot is yet another reminder that many police forces have lost control of street crime. Local communities are well aware of this; now is the time to make the police truly accountable to them.