This probably won't make me very popular, but this bothers me. Vision 20/20 have released a "Peace of Mind Mashup". You enter an address and it shows the location of registered sex-offenders in the area. Over the weekend it has at least changed to being a service which you must sign-up for, but it is nowhere near what I would call safe.
In the UK recently, paedophilia has very much become the shocking crime of the moment. No matter how long it has been a reality, it is fashionable to be outraged about it right now. I will therefore try to keep this balanced without overreacting to media influence, but be warned. I don't think anyone approves of this sort of behaviour, but when the media spotlights homed in on these stories, several paedophiles (and even one poor paediatrician) were attacked in their homes and beaten severely. So what? I hear you ask.
It seems to me that all this service can do for the general public is spread fear and paranoia. The innocent people who will use this will be concerned parents who will find criminals living on their doorstep, or maybe thugs looking for a legitimate target. You may not care if a paedophile gets beaten up, but what about when this thug has run out of "legitimate" targets that we have turned a blind eye to? We cannot encourage violence just because we don't like the target of it. Two wrongs, and all that...
Try out the service for yourself if you are curious. It only covered the US when I tried it, so I put in the address of a friend of mine in SF, and there were more than 20 within walking distance. At 6'6" and 200+ pounds I don't normally scare that easily, and probably have little to fear from these pretty pathetic specimens of society, but this turned my stomach. Not just in concern for my friend's safety, not just because I will be in those streets in the near future, not just because it made me realise just how common sexual abuse is, everywhere.
No, my real horror came much more slowly than that, and during a conversation with my wife. She started off talking about how she'd like to go to Amsterdam before we settle down and have kids. I understood this to mean she didn't want her offspring to be influenced by seeing Mummy with a doobie in The Grasshopper, but no, as ever she is far wiser than I.
Amsterdam has legalised prostitution and marijuana, and although I question their motives for doing so, I fully support their right to. I feel unutterably sorry for the people of Amsterdam who have seen their once beautiful city turned into a cesspit of human excess and depravity, but still go there fairly regularly to watch this insanity unfold. Am I being a hypocrite to encourage this to continue? Perhaps. Whereas ten years ago it was fun to go with a friend to wander round and see the sights, now it's like taking holidays in hell. People used to go to Amsterdam to see some of the prettiest architecture, fields and fields of tulips and poppies, windmills, dykes and polders. Now they go for the whores. No, many of them won't actually use these women, most go for the same reason a car crash causes a 5 mile tailback, they just want to stare in horror.
Legalising drugs brought with it the idea that other drugs would be tolerated, and over time they have been. Walking through from Centraal Station to the Leidesplein some years ago I was offered cocaine no less than 5 times, in broad daylight. Police were nearby, the dealers were not arrested, or even talked to. Many times, foreigners have been sold contaminated Ecstasy, only to later find themselves in hospital, full of horse tranquilisers.
Legalised prostitution has brought with it something far more terrifying. Prostitution is conducted through windows in Amsterdam, the women sit and show themselves off, whilst the punters go shopping. This is all very open and liberal, thus stopping the abuse of women in secret. Yeah, right. I don't pretend to know what it has done for the rights of women, but I tend to believe that if they had the choice, not a single one of them would be working in a shop window by the canal.
As prostitution in the city has become so famous, so other businesses have tried to catch a passing trade. What better to titilate on the way to the workers booths than to stop off at a sex-show, heavily advertised in neon? And when you've finished, why not get a DVD, maybe containing some animals, for when you get home? Yes, the back streets of Amsterdam now cater for everything the discerning pervert could ever desire. I'm shaking my head in disbelief as I write these words. How the hell have we encouraged this? This isn't liberal, it's fascist.
What is known, and not something affected by my opinion in any way, is that Amsterdam now has one of the largest collections of paedophiles and sex-abuse rings in the world. Unsurprising if you consider the magnetism it has for pervs and paedos of every distinction. Just as the coke and Es are easier to obtain and more willingly overlooked, so is the paedophilia and abuse. These people aren't out in the streets yet offering you children as you walk to your next station, but they know where to find each other. A simple search in Amsterdam could be done in a shady theatre or the back of a sex shop. Ask a dodgy question and anyone not wanting to take it any further will not likely inform the police, nor would the police take it very seriously.
Vision 20/20 just made this search a hell of a lot easier and safer for the very people we don't want to have this information. Now the rings don't have to be confined to one area of one country where the police can hopefully make some progress in addressing it. Now they can be ANYWHERE. On my friends doorstep, on yours, on mine. This I am frightened of.