Thursday, December 14, 2006

P's flat got burgled this week. Her flatmate, N, woke up with a man standing over his bed. N thought he must be the plumber or something. The man nodded and said 'You alright mate?' then he picked N's video camera and walked out.

It took N a couple of seconds to realize what was going on and to jump after him but it was too late. 'He was so cool about it, didn't panic, just said hi and walked out.'

The cops were not surprised. 'Typical Hackney. He didn't give you his card by any chance?'

Asked about crime advice they said: 'Well it's not a nice place to live around here unfortunately is it? Don't leave the window open again. And don't join the local gangs. Yes, short term you get lots of fun, but mid-term your life expectancy drops. Bad move, gangs'.

The Forensic expert came a few hours later. A chatty Italian girl in normal clothes and a big suitcase, she looked like out of a TV detective series. She said burglars, if caught, go to jail only after three convictions. 'But that doesn't help much either. For people like you, maybe one night in prison would be enough to deter you for your whole life. But for them three months in prison is nothing. They just learn new techniques and go out more experienced. Prison doesn't solve anything. Crimes like this are about poverty and social exclusion.'

But she said things are not so bad as the newspapers say. 'Chances to get burgled in Hackney are about the same as in west London, once in seven years. And violent crime is still very low compared to the U.S. If you're not involved with drugs and crime, the chances to be randomly stabbed or shot at are close to zero.'

I'm always amazed how, unlike in Israel, there are no iron bars here on ground floor windows. It's really not that difficult to get into houses in London. This has its advantages, when you're squatting.

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