She said: “I think they’re going to do something on New Year’s Eve … I normally go to the [Birmingham] German market, but I’m not going for that reason.” So spoke a woman on the till in a supermarket in a small town last month. If the aim of a terrorist is – besides whatever political aims they have, if they have any – to spread terror, then they could claim there a small victory. It may be that the woman was short of money, or she had got tired of the German market, and she was not going anyway. And you cannot read very much into one overheard conversation. It did show, though, the accumulating effect of terrorist urban assaults on the law-abiding. In that light we should read the authorities efforts at policing public spaces with care, namely Servator (from page 41) and debate what the Paris attacks of November 13 mean for private and particularly corporate security (page 36). London is much nearer to Paris than Newcastle or Glasgow.
We like to think, don’t we, that life – our own, or in general – is progressing. If it’s getting better, despite setbacks and bad things in the news, there is a purpose to it. One of the depressing parts of reporting on private security for years is the sense sometimes that we’re not necessarily going forward; we’re re-inventing the wheel, or even forgetting that we ought to have such things as wheels. Some felt that and told me that at the recent Police and Security (PaS) gathering at City Hall in London (page 24). In fairness to the organisers of PaS, and as they say, they are only a forum; they are not wheelwrights!? But hearing police and private security people alike grumble that they found it hard to pass crime reports and intelligence to the other made me wonder if the 2012 Olympics – when both sides went to some effort to work together, for those few weeks of the Games – had ever happened. People move on, institutions forget what they did only a few years ago. They have to keep re-inventing the wheel.
Most travellers on trains on Saturdays including myself have stories, sometimes funny, usually not, of enduring anti-social and threatening football fans (page 30). You can argue whether the men – usually men – are football’s problems, if they are drinking on trains at 9am and returning from a game at 6pm hardly able to stand. If you fear a punch-up, it doesn’t matter. As such vandalism and violence dates from at least the 1950s, the cynic in me wonders if British Transport Police are cracking down on such hooligans only because their force is at risk of being broken up – like BTP in Scotland, as Si Smith wrote last year. If something good comes of it, I suppose we can’t complain.