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12 Aug, 2011 05:32

Street justice: English communities defend their turf

British PM David Cameron is blaming gangs, BlackBerry phones, and social networks for inciting violence in the country. He says parts of society are "sick", but locals in the affected areas say they have been neglected by the government for years.

The violence has now claimed five lives so far, after a man wounded in the streets of Londonon Monday died in hospital on Friday. With a sense of insecurity growing on the streets, people now feel they are forced to take security matters into their own hands.A warning to looters: if you come out to Enfield now: you had better be in disguise. Hundreds of young men chase down the road behind the police, ready to help drive troublemakers out of town. Despite the mob atmosphere, a large crowd of young men are out for justice – there has been no trouble so far. Most are ordinary people out to protect their communities:“A lot of people are here to help. There obviously are some people who will have the opposite effect, but you’re gonna get that everywhere, pretty much,” a young woman told RT.“Just out here protecting our streets. I’ve got young children, I don’t want my children on the streets while all this is happening,” says another.“If there’s not enough police, then we’ll help them out, look after our shops and just push [the rioters] away,” a young man explains.And it is not just in Enfield. In other parts of town, Sikhs have banded together to protect their livelihoods and property.“Sons and daughters come together with us and say ‘Let’s solve the problems without violence and causing distress to each other, which then takes it to a further level, causing further violence and distress,” says Amarjiot Singh Dhillon, an advisor to the Southall Gurdwara Temple.This is the current face of communities across England, many of which felt under siege from looters, and said in their darkest hour, the police were nowhere to be seen. Maybe this is what David Cameron means when he talks constantly about the Big Society – handing power and responsibility back to local communities.“And I think the scenes we all saw on our television screens last night, of communities coming together in Birmingham to try and stop violence taking place, was a model of how these things should be done,” the PM said at a parliamentary session.That is despite the fact that three young Asian men were killed in Birmingham early on Wednesday morning, trying to protect local businesses. Looters allegedly rammed them with a car. The tragedy ignited anger in the Asian community.A vigilante band attracts all sorts – and a mob mentality does not just rear its head in looters.There are a huge number of police officers on the streets of England at the moment, which many find reassuring. But groups like the Enfield Army prove that communities feel that police are unable to protect them. And with budget cuts for frontline officers still on the table, Bobbies on the beat could get fewer and further between, while local vigilante groups could take up the slack.