Average Friday Night? It was about 11.15pm on a Friday night, the 28th September 2001 to be exact. My neighbour was being assaulted by a group of eight or so teenagers. I had been outside talking to my girlfriend on my mobile with my hands free kit hanging in my ear whilst at the same time seeing my daughter's friend home to her front door. I noted the youngsters who appeared to be a bit rowdy and who were walking up the middle of the road. I heard a loud bang and thought that one of them had slapped the side of a BT van that was parked on the pavement so I went to see what was happening, as it appeared that they were up to no good. As I arrived on the scene I noted my neighbour, who had emerged from the passenger's side of his car where apparently he had been snoozing in the reclining seat after having a bit of a tiff with his wife. He looked somewhat bewildered and I went to talk to him to find out if he was OK. He pointed to the passenger's side front door of his car, which now had a massive dent in it. It appears that one of the teenagers had spotted him asleep in the car and had thought it would be amusing to kick the door panel, thus startling my neighbour abruptly into consciousness. Not knowing exactly which of the teenagers had done it, he had confronted two of the lads who were hanging back, while the rest wondered further up the road. He was asking one lad the names of the guilty party, but the lad just denied knowing any of them. Realising he was getting nowhere and feeling somewhat frustrated, my neighbour decided to run up the road after the rest of the mob and confront them. He asked me to stay with the more innocent looking lad hoping that he might still reveal all.

A Waste Of Time Calling Police: By this time, having anticipated that he could be getting himself into trouble and also to report the incident, I had hung up on my girlfriend and was instead trying to ring the police. After having dialled 999 I was stunned when for some several minutes, whilst all of this was unfolding, the only response I got was to be repeatedly told by a pre-recorded message that I was in a queue and that my call would be answered shortly. Alright, I know it's a Friday night at about 11.15pm and the police are no doubt rushed off their feet trying to cope with the abundance of teenage mentality, fuelled by alcohol, running riot on our streets. But, hang on a minute, this is not a computer company help line, or the gas company that I'm trying to get through to, it is the emergency services' line. Yes! Emergency! Have we forgotten what that means? In all fairness my neighbour probably didn't do himself any favours, because after having his car door kicked in by one of these lager-primed teenagers, who incidentally weren't old enough to be drinking anyway, had tried to confront them and was now in fear of his life. They turned on him like a pack of dogs and surrounded him. One punched him, giving him a fat lip and another threatened him with a knife, goading him to come on. My neighbour, by this time beginning to realise he was heavily outnumbered and in serious danger, decided to try and make a run for it. He managed to break free from the circle and ran back down the road. The teenagers all chased him down the road, one of them tripping him by kicking at his heels, so as to try and get him on the ground where they could all no doubt kick the crap out of him. Fortunately he managed to get to his feet again and continue his escape.

Just Keep Me Hanging On: During all of this I was still hanging on listening to this pre-recorded message telling me I was held in a queue and would be dealt with shortly but I'd seen this unfolding and knew that I had to try and intervene and somehow disrupt what was happening but I was also somewhat aware that we were now dealing with an angry mob quite happy to steam in and cause someone serious damage. As they came running towards me, chasing my neighbour I shouted at them as loud as I could. "Oi! What's going on?" Hoping to try and defuse the situation. They appeared to slow in their pursuit enough to look me over for a moment and I wondered if they going to have a go at me instead. Then two of the lads and a young girl stopped to talk to me whilst the others continued in the chase. The young girl explained that my neighbour had pushed his luck by coming on strong and accusing them of kicking his car door in, which one of them obviously had, but nevertheless they didn't like the fact that he confronted them about it. By now my neighbour had managed to get back and retreat behind his front door. But two of them still followed him to his front door and proceeded to bang on it threateningly. If he hadn't managed to get to his feet when he was tripped it would have been a different story. His wife inside was also trying to call the police and was getting the same message as I.

What Are You Supposed To Do? One has to conclude that maybe it wasn't the best thing to do to confront them, but what do you do? Do we just accept that this is the way life is nowadays and accept it? It's no good relying on the police because they are too slow and by the time they attend the incident it has become ancient history. The teenagers only laugh at the police anyway because they know that, in this day and age, there are no real consequences for this kind of behaviour, that's even if the case can be proven. Although, there was a very distinct boot print on the door and if anyone could have been bothered it would have been easy enough to match to the guilty person's footwear to it. But, who can be bothered? After all, there are far too many other things to be dealing with, which is partly why we had to wait so long for the police to attend in the first place. Is our society going to return to the mentality of the American Wild West? After all, this incident just left my neighbour feeling frustrated and like he wanted to go and obtain a gun so as to be able to defend himself. After all, who else was going to defend him and deal with it? No one!

More Time Wasted: When I eventually did manage to get through to this centralized police emergency centre, after going through the rigmarole of what number your calling from, something that should perhaps be logged automatically nowadays, one then has to explain where the incident is occurring. "Where exactly is that?" Says the voice on the other end. "Is it near so and so?" "No it's not, it's near so and so and so and so!" Can't I just speak to someone who knows the area I wonder? After all, someone who knows the area would instantly know the location, whereas someone at Scotland Yard, who lives miles away, is not going to be familiar with the locality and has to have it explained to them. The thing is, we are not directing granny to the supermarket here. This is a life and death emergency in need of the most efficient response time and the least amount of time wasting possible. Although, apparently not, it seems!

Thirty Minutes Too Late: The point is, by the time we go through all of this inefficient procedure and the police eventually arrive, the deed is done and the perpetrators are long gone. By the time the police arrived in this instance the perpetrators were thirty minutes or more gone! Which also makes you wonder how many other life and death emergencies were also going unattended at the time? In the end it was just as well that it was only the police that were late, because it could have been my neighbour as well! Interestingly enough, when a police car and van eventually did arrive, they were filming the night's events and at least managed to get his story on video. However, this story is just one of the many unsavoury instances that take place everyday of the week, week in week out, year after year, all of a similar theme. It does pose a number of questions which have no satisfactory answer and which perhaps need to be addressed....