Saturday, January 24, 2009

A sorry state of affairs

I often wonder why universities and other research organisations spend so much time and money investigating the obvious. Anyone with common sense could give them the conclusion before they begin and save them a lot of effort.

I imagine in six months time some august body will conduct extensive research into a possible link between the economic recession and crime. After thousands of hours of work they will astonish us by declaring that there has been an increase in crime, especially burglaries, as a result of the economic downturn.

Those people with good memories often speak of 'better times' when it wasn't necessary to lock your front door let alone triple bolt it; a time when you could be out at night on a dark street and still feel safe. I have no doubt that these people exaggerate; they are looking back with rose tinted glasses. Crime isn't a twenty first century invention that came with the iPod.

What is new though are the methods for trying to combat it; the fancy alarm systems, the high security locks and the CCTV cameras. Whilst all these devices might make us feel more secure, they don't take away the need for us to remain vigilant and they don't protect us at times when we are most vulnerable - when our guard is down.

We met one of our neighbours in the town yesterday who told us the sad tale of how he had been duped the other day whilst he was out for a walk around the urbanisation. This guy regularly takes an hour's exercise and probably feels perfectly safe whilst doing so. He is on his own territory, unlikely to meet anyone other than another resident taking exercise.

En route, he was stopped by a couple in their thirties who'd got out of their car to speak to him. They were accompanied by a child and obviously looked perfectly innocent. The neighbour didn't know them but had no reason to be suspicious of their intentions when they asked him for directions to a bank.

Somehow, during the course of the conversation, my neighbours wallet fell out of his pocket. The young man kindly picked it up and seemed to be replacing the notes that he claimed had fallen out. Happy to have given some assistance, my neighbour went on his way and the couple disappeared off in their car.

It was only later that my neighbour discovered that, far from replacing the notes, the man had taken them for himself. By a slight of hand, he had managed to palm the notes into his own pocket.

Sods law tells you that, if you are going to loose your wallet it will be on the very day that is is full of cash. On this particular day my neighbour been down to the bank to draw out money to pay some bills and had his wallet with the cash still in his pocket. It was a case of bad circumstances preying against him. Normally he wouldn't take his wallet with him when he was out walking and if he did it would only have a little cash in it.

It is a sad state of affairs when you can't help others who seek your assistance for fear of being conned. Preying on people's good nature as a means to rob them is about as low as it gets. Only stealing from the elderly and infirm rank worse in my book.

If this was a one off story it would be bad enough. Unfortunately though it is one of many that you hear these days. The lesson is clear; if anyone you don't know asks for your help - you politely refuse. You don't leave yourself vulnerable by being kind spirited. It may go against your best nature but there seems to be no safe alternative.

The only good side to this story is that my neighbour wasn't hurt. Only his wallet and his pride were damaged.

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