Friday, September 07, 2007

Zero Tolorance

This week the dismissal of a court case against a young girl student who was prosecuted for putting her feet up on a chair whist travelling on a Mersey Ral train has brought the usual trumpeting of indignation from certain media quarters.

And whilst it might sound petty, and a waste of court resources, its a direct result of the pressure applied in the same media outlets in recent years that we should apply "zero tolorance" to examples of anti social behaviour.

These same media outlets always point to Rudy Giuliani when mayor of New York his famous "zero tolorance" policy and its effect on that city's reputation for being impossible to walk in after dark, we're told constantly that that is the way to go, that "ordinary people" should reject anti-social behaviour, report it and lets have the scrotes clapped in irons, stamp out littering, grafitti, and other heinous acts that blight our society.

Well, the resultant 240 prosecutions by Mersey Rail for "feet on seats", and the awaiting 400 more prosecutions for the same crime are part of the "zero tolorance", sitting with your feet up on the seat opposite is mindless disrespect for your fellow passengers, especially the one who has to sit there after your feet have been removed, its petty, but it strikes at the heart of the issue of "respect", a word that is often bandied around as an excuse for bad behaviour by those who ironically have no respect for anyone else.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that while in Edinburgh I was most impressed by their bus network and the presentation of the service by staff and equipment - drivers were without fail helpful, made eye contact, smiled at you, attired in clean white shirts, wearing the company tie (tied properly), and the buses were new and clean and better still cheap to use.

More impressive were the posters on the buses that informed the passengers that they were being observed by no less than eight cctv cameras on each bus which broadcast their pictures back to a central office where any signs of anti-social behaviour would be reported to the driver and the police informed.

And even better a poster that read something like "you hate the gays, the blacks, foreigners...but would you sit underneath this poster - respect your fellow passengers" and do you know - it worked.

You can't have zero tolorance and then have a little bit of tolorance, you can't ban litter dropping and then not prosecute for dropping one cigarette butt on the floor or out of the car window (as one of my drivers was last year), you can't abhore racism but not mind a little bit of name calling, and you can't call for zero tolorane in your newspaper and then mock an organisations attempts to enforce your great idea.

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