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Intra-community crime: where cops must tread lightly

FCRO Subsection: 
Nigel Morris-Cotterill

There are some aspects of policing that are made more difficult than they should be by a range of factors. One of those factors is attitudes, on both sides, when a crime is committed by members of a "community" against others in that "community."

Intra-community crime is always difficult to investigate because the investigation is, almost always, conducted by someone from outside that "community." The reasons for this are many and varied. Without entering into the choppy waters of arguing that there should be no "communities," only "society," Nigel Morris-Cotterill examines why FCROs are in a difficult position when "communities" and offences within them are considered.

It doesn't matter how we define "community," it comes down to one thing: us against them. The term "community" has come to be interpreted not as a social support mechanism, as it once was, but as a walled garden, topped with razor wire through which a powerful electric charge runs. All to often, today, when people speak of "our community" they mean "not you." They mean "we are special and entitled to be treated as such; you are ordinary and do not deserve equal treatment." It doesn't matter whether it's a group attacking Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the UK's Opposition Party because he opposes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and the murder of Palestinians which many UK Jews have extrapolated to argue that he is anti-Jewish (they use the false term "anti-Semitic, denying the fact that many Semites are in fact Arab). It doesn't matter if it's any one of the alphabet soup of sexual minorities or any one of a range of racial or religious groups. If a group can create an identity for themselves, they argue that they are a community.

Against that must be set that the question of "community" arises in many contexts, including convenience and protection, especially for the vulnerable, even when that vulnerability is exacerbated by the "community"'s failure to effectively interact with society for the walled garden effect not only prevents effective and free interaction with society as a whole, it also prevents those who are required to provide protection from doing so.

Where a "community" includes those who are vulnerable because they have committed an offence, the "community" acts to keep out law enforcement and other support agencies. Therefore, immigrant "communities" may close their doors to outsiders to protect illegal immigrants, those who have overstayed their welcome and, even, those engaged in offences that the "community" considers has a community benefit. That can be from small-time thievery to murder or worse.

When one hears someone in a "community" saying "we look after our own," what they are actually saying is "we have our own way of dealing with misconduct including crime.

But once that wall is up, once the "community" considers that it can effectively police the conduct within its own boundaries, that's when criminals begin to take over. intra-community fraud, especially for new immigrants or illegal immigrants, has been prevalent in many countries for decades. Scams under the guise of helping to get licences, authorisations, even work permits are common, as a loan sharks. The new entrants believe the scammers because they trust people from their own "community," even when the authorities make frequent, prominent announcements that there is an automated system and that there is no need for an agent and no benefit will apply where one is used.

It is into this mistrust of those outside the "community" that police officers must step when investigating crime by one member of the "community" against another. Often, they face hostility from so-called "community leaders" who fear their own authority will be compromised and, worse, may imagine that maintaining the status quo, under which