Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reporting unreported street crime

On my way to a screening in the West End the other evening I stopped for a cup of tea. Looking out of the café window my gaze was interrupted by a young man coming round the corner running very, very fast. I watched as he shouted after a middle-aged bloke walking down the street towards the British Museum. When he caught up with him there was a confrontation that looked for a moment as if it might turn into violence. But then the older man sheepishly put his hand in his pocket and handed over the phone he'd presumably just stolen from the younger. The young man departed, presumably satisfied. Nobody was bothering to alert the authorities. The man in the cafe said it happened every day.

Ten minutes later I was walking on the edge of Covent Garden when a young man came tearing out on an alley, galloped across the road and disappeared behind a council truck. The minute he was hidden from view a young woman came running out of the same alley. At first I thought it must be what they used to call "high spirits" between boyfriend and girlfriend but then I wondered whether he'd just stolen something from her. She ran across the street and went in the opposite direction. Which made me wonder. If she really was pursuing a thief on her own, how was she proposing to regain her property? And if she needed some help, whatever happened to crying "stop thief!"?


  1. so you didn't shout "he went thataway"?

  2. I once held on to a robber until assistance arrived. He beat the crap out of me but I still held on. The girl didn't even thank me...
    RE: What people call you. When I was at Emap we used to call you Dave Hepcat...

  3. Anonymous4:35 pm

    Not even a "he's behind you!"? Shame on you...

  4. The sad thing is, they were most likely both thieves running away from the same cynical is that?!

  5. Anonymous10:08 am

    Before anyone says this is a sign that society has gone to the dogs ... I had a very similar experience twenty years ago in Covent Garden. I had a split second opportunity to try tackle a guy running towards me amid cries of 'stop' from a young man we would then have called a yuppie. I hesitated and missed the chance, and I think I would still think twice before 'having a go' over something like a stolen mobile phone.

  6. When I chased after a thief who snatched my female companion's handbag (also in Covent Garden - clearly rougher than Stonebridge Park), I got it back. But I nearly got stabbed for my efforts.

    I've thought twice about being a have-a-go hero since.

  7. Paul K12:10 pm

    Remember that wonderful Guardian ad, in which a skinhead charges towards a middle-aged suited bloke...the voiceover asks about our assumptions...the skinhead lunges towards the bloke...and then pushes him away from under some falling bricks.

  8. A colleague of mine was walking to meet his wife at a station somewhere, and as he got near to her saw a man grab her handbag and run. The thief ran in my colleague's direction, obviously not knowing who he was. My mate intercepted the bag snatcher,rugby tackled him and regained the bag. The guy went down hard and was injured and my mate only narrowly escaped an assault charge.

  9. I wish my life were this exciting. I've never seen (or had the opportunity myself) anyone rugby tackle (or not) fleeing thieves.

    I did hear a story that someone once rang their own phone after it was nicked and reasoned with the thief to leave the SIM card in a phone box for him, seeing as it was hardly necessary to the thief, but important to him for the numbers it contained. Mr Robber did indeed leave the card as agreed so at least they do consider your social life important.

    But then, you shouldn't negotiate with terrorists.

  10. I'm gald i don't have that excitement.

    Even though I live on the outskirts of the metropolis of Leeds I've never come near to that kind of thing.

  11. Sorry! Early morning fat fingers meant I rejected the last comment by mistake. Please post again. Apologies.

  12. that might have been mine.

    summary: Couple of months ago I see some kids (<13 years) breaking into neighbours garden which was a building site at the time. I tell them to get out and think nothing more of it.

    One of their parents appears at my door 2 days later and accuses me of assaulting his child. He wanted compensation. He wouldn't leave and tried to force his way into my house to get me. So I called the police.

    I end up getting investigated by the police and the neighbour didn't even have the decency to check that I was ok. The kids were lucky not to be hurt (the site wasn't secured) and weren't charged with trespass.

    Since this happened I just walk on by whenever I see anything happening. Don't get involved. It's not worth it.