A crime expert from Birmingham City University says his first-hand experience of how local communities in America are struggling to cope with big issues such as drug abuse and gang warfare highlights concerns over letting citizens deal with big issues on their own.

Martin Glynn, a criminologist at Birmingham City University, has just returned from working in inner city Baltimore – the setting for the hit crime show The Wire – as part of a prestigious Winston Churchill International Fellowship.

“The sheer weight of the problems the community were facing was frightening,” said Martin. “It reminded me that in the US there is not the level of local democracy we have in the UK, hence the community has to take care of itself.”

Martin said he witnessed “a disconnect between politicians, public servants, academia and the community”. The problems were made worse in an environment of diminishing resources

In comparison, Martin thought the multi-agency British experience was more positive.

He therefore urged UK politicians to think very hard before dismantling or curtailing public service infrastructures as part of the austerity cut-backs with an expectation communities can fill this gap on their own – as anticipated in the Big Society agenda.

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Saulo Menezes De Oliveira

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