Posted on January 9, 2006

Sarwar: Police Too Scared of Asian Gangs

Mark Macaskill and Jim McBeth, Times (London), Jan. 8, 2006

The Macpherson report into the murder of Stephen Lawrence has led to a politically correct backlash with police afraid to investigate black and Asian crime for fear of being accused of racism, according to one of Britain’s most prominent Muslim MPs.

Mohammad Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Central, said some communities are being terrorised by black and Asian gangs, but, in many cases, police have failed to act.

The reluctance of police to tackle ethnic criminals has allowed gangs to operate with impunity in areas of Scotland, the north of England and parts of London.

Sarwar claims that black and Asian communities are as much the victims of this criminal activity as white people and he wants police forces to use a zero-tolerance approach to smash the gangs.

The Macpherson report, published almost seven years ago, followed a year-long inquiry into the Metropolitan police’s mishandling of the murder of Lawrence, a black teenager, in Eltham, southeast London, in 1993.

Sir William Macpherson, a retired judge, concluded that there was a culture of institutional racism within the police service and recommended that officers undergo courses in racism awareness and valuing cultural diversity.

It also said the Home Office, police forces and local authorities should establish databases to record and report racially motivated incidents and crimes.

However, according to Sarwar, the pendulum has now swung too far the other way and the reluctance by some police officers to stop and arrest black and Asian youths is benefiting criminals.

“After Stephen Lawrence, there were a lot of problems,” said Sarwar. “There has definitely been a perception that the police haven’t tackled crime hard enough in Asian communities. I think that is beginning to change, but it’s very early days.

“A lot of people come to me and say the police are not doing much for fear of being accused of racism.

“Gang culture is a problem, it is a big challenge for us all and the police should not have any fear that if they (arrest) people from Asian communities they will be accused of racism.

“I can understand the reasons police have been reluctant, but it worries me, because people from white communities may feel that someone is not treated the same way by the police because of their colour and we need to do everything possible to dispel that.”

Sarwar, whose constituency includes Pollokshields, which houses Scotland’s biggest Pakistani community, has raised the issue with Strathclyde police.

“I have made it absolutely clear to the police that criminals are criminals, I don’t want the police arresting people just because they are black, but at the same time police should not be afraid of arresting black people if they suspect they are involved in criminal activities.”

Last year one Asian man was convicted of the racist murder of 15-year-old Kriss Donald in Pollokshields. A further three men are awaiting trial for their alleged part in the killing.

Residents and shopkeepers there say Asian criminal gangs have created no-go areas because of the high levels of violence, vandalism, theft and fire-raising.

Groups of hooded Asian youths, many from middle-class backgrounds, prowl the streets until the early hours fighting each other and rival white gangs. Many residents are too scared of reprisals to report crimes. They believe silence is their only option. Others have exacted their own revenge on criminals. It is a similar story in other Scottish cities such as Edinburgh and Dundee, which are home to ethnic communities.

According to one shopkeeper in Glasgow who wished to remain anonymous, Asian youths have repeatedly stolen items from his store in broad daylight.

Residents fearful for their personal safety tell of being intimidated by gangs that vandalise cars, slash tyres, set fires and commit house breakings. Others loiter on street corners intimidating passers-by or cruise the streets in souped-up cars.

People who live in ground-floor flats even draw their curtains to avoid attracting the attention of marauding gangs.

“There is a sense of lawlessness here,” said one resident. “The youths think they can act as they want, that they are untouchable by the police. That is the problem.”

WHEN Habib, a local shopkeerer, disturbed a gang of Asian youths attempting to break into his shop late one night, they fled empty-handed and there was only minor damage. Nevertheless he called the police and within the hour two uniformed officers arrived. As they began asking questions about the incident, Habib grew uneasy.

“Their attitude seemed too relaxed,” he said. “I thought they were the sort of white cops who had a problem with race, and they seemed reluctant to take proper notes.

“They told me that the chances of catching the youths were slim, which I understood, but they kept asking if they were Asian boys. I said they were and the cops looked at each other.

“It was strange because I realised that my first thought — that they would be reluctant to go after white boys — was wrong. In retrospect, they seemed to be reluctant to go after Asian youths.”

A few days later, Habib was in his shop when the same gang ran in shouting abuse, overturning shelves and smashing jars. The tyres on his car had been slashed.

He picked up the phone to call the police but thought better of it. Habib realised nothing would be done. “The attacks were clearly reprisals for calling the police and I didn’t think it was worth contacting them.

“It’s an impossible situation for our community, when the police seem afraid to protect us from the worst elements from our own culture.”

South of the border, Asian gangs have been linked to human-trafficking, passport forgery, kidnapping and murder. Criminal empires run by Jamaican and West African gangs are growing stronger and in the north of England, detectives have warned of Asian gangs muscling in on the international trafficking of class-A drugs such as heroin.

With the threat of extreme Muslim fundamentalism a constant concern for British authorities, political correctness has come under new and unprecedented scrutiny. It was recently blamed by Civitas, the leading think tank, for creating “alienated Muslim ghettos which produce young men who commit mass murder against their fellow citizens”.

“The fact is most of the crime (in Asian communities) is being carried out by Asian youths,” said Ayub Khan, chairman of the Glasgow-based Multi-Faith Coalition, an organisation that represents the views of young Muslims.

“We need a heavy-handed police approach because that is the only way to deal with the gangs that are running amok in places like Pollokshields. The softly softly approach isn’t working, we need to do away with this political correctness.”

Asian leaders, however, concede police are not solely to blame. They admit the rise in violence and criminality by Asian youths is due to cultural changes. The first immigrants who came to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s wanted to make money and succeed, they said, but the younger generation is “picking up the bad habits that afflict society”.

The tensions created by black and Asian gangs is being exploited by the far right. The British National party was quick to make political gain out of the murder of Donald. The party’s leader, Nick Griffin, visited Glasgow shortly after the killing and blamed the police for failing to heed their concerns about racial tension in the area two years previously. Amid fears of confrontation and violence, the BNP candidate for Glasgow Central went on to win 671 votes — 2.4% of the total cast — at last year’s general election.

The killing divided the racially mixed community and led to revenge attacks. While Strathclyde police stepped up their presence, they abandoned an operation targeting Asian gangs, known as Operation Gadher. An intelligence report allegedly recommending action to tackle Asian crime was shelved. Police and Muslim leaders agree that crimes committed by black and Asian gangs, notably a rise in low-level crime such as vandalism and house breakings, has steadily increased in the last decade.

Margaret Mitchell, an MSP and justice spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “We have to address this political correctness which has got out of control. I’m very pleased that Sarwar has raised this issue. The police have been under more pressure from the measures imposed post-Lawrence and something has to give.”

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, said: “There has never been a policy or instruction to any force to treat members of ethnic minorities differently. A crime is a crime regardless of race, colour or creed.”