Last night 200 armed, masked men went on a violent rampage in Zurich. You can read a detailed report here.
Does a story like this one make a lot of what you might think about Switzerland seem like myth? The most interesting thing is that although 200 armed men went on an extended violent rampage, all of four were arrested. Is it a reflection upon a police force that isn’t equipped to do much more than enforce people in their apartments to be quiet after 10pm? How on earth does it fit in with the picture we are supposed to have of a warrior population ready to deal with invasion by other countries at a minute’s notice? I can’t decide whether it is nice or terrifying that the police had no way of effectively dealing with this situation.
This is despite the fact that football thuggery is common in German parts of Switzerland. It is typical for angry mobs to go on destructive violent sprees. Yet again, however, the police don’t seem to have an effective way of dealing with it.
These sorts of stories are not rare in this country. There seems to be such an expectation here that people will act like people ‘should’ instead of how they do and no amount of evidence to the contrary will lead to a change in approach.
Here in Geneva a large number of surveillance cameras have recently been put into place around the town, not least around my area, which is an area rife with drugs, prostitution, violence, binge drinking. Apparently police will be looking at the footage all the time….but there is not any evidence that what they see will ever be acted upon. Mostly anti-social behaviour will be noted and ignored.
The police have one major job in this country. It is to stop people in their own abodes from making noises. Suppose, for example, there are 50 people binge-drinking on the footpaths near my apartment block, yelling and screaming after 10pm. The police will do nothing to stop that. But if I turned up music in my apartment loud enough to block out that rather offensive noise coming from those outside, I would be guilty of a crime. The situation is both mystifying and scary. It was suggested to me that it has something to do with business interests – selling alcohol being an important business interest – having powerful friends in the halls of political power in Geneva. I’m prepared to believe that’s true.