Saturday, February 26, 2005

Cunning Stunts

There is a busy public place on my patch where thousands of people pass to and fro every day. A while ago we were presented with a defendant who was charged with Going Equipped to Steal. Now that's an everyday charge, but what was not everyday was the detail of the charge. Rather than the usual screwdriver, dodgy credit card, or whatever he had a shampoo bottle filled with mustard. Yes, mustard.

The trick was obvious once we heard the details. Victim is in a public place, maybe on the mobile, or waiting for a bus, or a train. A helpful stranger points out that the person's coat has a nasty smear on it, and offers a tissue. Victim takes tissue and thanks his helper. While this is going on, helpful stranger's pal snatches the victim's laptop or briefcase and is off like a greyhound.

There are variations on this, such as dropping a low denomination banknote (often a $1 bill) and then asking the victim if it is his, or the scattering of a handful of change, or even pebbles, on to a hard floor to distract the victim for just long enough to steal his case.

We take an exceptionally dim view of this and will always send the offender to the Crown Court. The going rate there is about three or four years in prison, plus deportation for the many bag thieves who are foreigners.

So hang onto your bags, won't you? And if you do carry a laptop, don't keep it in the flash bag labelled Apple or IBM. Keep it in a cheap old shopping bag and put your sandwiches in the laptop case.

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