Friday, 20 March 2009

Capital crime

It was the evening on St Patrick's – although that had nothing to do with why The Other Half and I were having a post-work drink in the staff bar.

After much conversation with friends and colleagues – commiserating with one on the death last weekend of his father, celebrating with another his birthday – we departed for home.

It was probably not much after 9pm when we climbed out of a cab and made our way to the door. The Queen B was sitting on the windowsill of our little office, with the closed blinds behind her, waiting for us.

We unlocked the door, starting taking coats off, putting the kettle on etc. I pottered into the little office and switched the light on. Even after a the benefit of a few beers, it didn't take me long to spot that my computer was missing. As in not on the desk where it had been when I'd left the flat that morning. As in – gone.

We fairly quickly discovered that one of the kitchen windows, which face the road in our ground-floor flat, had been carefully prised open, breaking two locks. Vases and bottles on the windowsill had been equally carefully moved – somebody didn't want to make a noise by knocking anything over, although they'd left a nice big bootprint on the kitchen table.

I got my phone out and called the police. What was faintly irritating was being asked utterly irrelevant questions such as: "Can I have your birthdate?" Does age affect whether or not a burglary was a burglary or whether burglary is a crime?

After I'd conveyed my details, I realised that both my cameras had gone too. A freelance hackette – with all my essential tools gone (well okay – I still had pens and paper, but I'm not sure whether I can remember how to write with such tools in these post-quill days).

That was the moment at which I burst into tears, crying (with exemplary dedication) that I had three photographic jobs to do at work the next day and what was I going to do about it.

That was also the point at which The Other Half tried to tell me to 'calm down', adding: "I know you feel violated".

Well, actually no I don't. This is a popular phrase for describing one's reactions to a burglary, but it's not what I feel.

Not that the police were particularly interested. They didn't bother coming out on Tuesday night. So inevitably some of the 'crime scene' was compromised, as we had to get a company out to secure the window. We look tres, tres old Hackney now, with a great big boarded-up window.

We'll look rather more new Hackney in about 10 days, when grilles are fitted over all the windows at the front, and the front door is strengthened.

Until then, we'll just have to make sure that we don't have a night out together, leaving the place alone after dark.

The relief, of course, is that it was a 'professional' job. Subsequent police enquiries (they eventually bothered to call around on Wednesday, and then send a forensic team down later that day) found a neighbour who'd faintly seen a single individual appearing to jump from a ground-floor window, and recalled thinking: 'how strange – why would the owners be doing that?'

The burglar looked through some drawers, but decided my jewelry wasn't remotely interesting. Thus nothing of sentimental value was taken. My kit was all insured and I can replace it straight away without waiting for the insurance company to cough up. I also have a back-up hard drive, so I haven't lost loads of work. And the burglar was not interested in trashing anything.

So no – I don't feel 'violated', but I still feel pissed off. And I'll feel that my home is a little more secure after the grilles are in place.

I'd like to think they'd get the burglar, but I don't expect it. The police refusal to even come out on the night of the crime doesn't exactly tell me that they feel very interested in the case. Which in some ways irritates me more than the burglar himself. No, that's not to excuse the burglar for the crime – but if the police are barely interested, then why should anyone feel dissuaded from committing such crimes?

And it's not even any point asking whether heavier sentences etc would make a difference with such police indifference.

For a long time I've thought that what is needed for the sake (if nothing else) of public confidence is more police actually patrolling the streets – 'beat coppers' as they were known in the olden days, before they all sat in canteens, waiting to be taken by the van load to arrest one shoplifter who'd already been apprehended by shop security (and yes, I have actually seen such situations).

In the meantime, we shall blockade ourselves in a little more than before. I don't feel 'violated' and I do not feel like playing some sort of 'victim' card, but adding the grilles and stuff does feel a little like a form of giving in to the crooks.

1 comment:

  1. Damn. My first thought when I read this was that it could have been worse (you could have been home, and you might have been beaten) but at the same I simply hate it that you have to install grilles on your windows and stronger locks on your doors in order to feel safe in your home.

    As I was reading I did have to ask myself if you've spoken to Shigekuni lately. The "jumping from a ground-floor window" part
    brought to my mind a poem he recently posted on his blog. :)

    Anyway - thank God for backups - a current one of which I do not have. Of course.