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Few stories have generated more passion on this website than the new probation office in Kitts Green. Dave Woodhall sees a sinister side to the protests.

It’s becoming increasingly easy to knock Gerry and Kate McCann. They shouldn’t have left their children alone, their fund-raising efforts, complete with public relations managers and Team McCann, are becoming ever more professional and they’re enduring the favourite message of conspiracy theorists everywhere, “They know something. They don’t look right.”

Then on the other side are the fund-raising efforts and awareness drives by undoubtedly well-meaning people, which in themselves are polarising opinion. One side claims the other is overly cynical, while the counter-accusation comes back that it’s easy to show fake compassion by lobbing a few coppers into a bucket and wearing a ribbon.

There are no easy, or correct, answers in this situation. Everyone does what they think is right and hopes for a happy outcome.

However, running parallel to the McCann story is something a bit closer to home and with some relevance, namely the Kitts Green probation office story. Not living in the immediate area I don’t know much about this, so I’m offering no opinion on developments. However, it’s clear to see that there are some very angry local residents deeply unhappy about the plans.

I’m not criticising them, but I do feel that what’s being said in both cases symbolises that way in which society has lost sight of the real dangers. We’ve succumbed to a paranoia that makes us feel in imminent danger of becoming crime victims.

The government use the spurious “reduce crime and help combat the threat of terrorism” line to justify ever-increasing attacks on our freedom. The words ‘sex offenders’ and ‘paedophiles’ are invariably used whenever there’s mention of any form of criminal rehabilitation.

But what’s the real threat? The overwhelming certainty is that this week no child in the city will be abducted by a stranger, or be at any risk of abduction in such circumstances. However, there will be many children who won’t be allowed out of the house, or to leave their parents’ sight, because of the fear that someone out there is after them.

If they’re on a proper play scheme, then that’s great. But plenty of kids are denied the chance of a normal life because their parents have been led to believe that the Bogeyman will get them if they walk out the front door.

A couple of years ago I did some work for an educational magazine, and what I found out while researching a story should be of real concern to every parent. In Dundee, doctors were reporting rates of heart disease amongst 11-14 year olds more consistent with patients in their fifties.

One teacher told me how her middle school was admitting nine year-olds who simply didn’t know how to run. There are many underlying reasons for these two stories, but it seems obvious that one of them is the fact that children aren’t allowed to play as they used to.

I’m not saying that we should go back to the mythical golden days when it was safe to leave your front door unlocked. But responsible parenting means a lot more than worrying about hostile strangers lurking behind every corner while at the same time seeing nothing wrong in sticking your children in front of a TV with 24 hour cartoon channels and a bag of e numbers for company.

To see The Stirrer’s report on how local people were bypassed by the planning process click here. And leave your comments about what Dave has said on the Kiits Green Probation Office thread on the Message Board.

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