Friday, July 27, 2007

An unwelcome return visit

Last Sunday I became aware of an unfamiliar face I thought I recognised at the Communion rail during the Parish Eucharist. I was a little disconcerted, as I half recognised what I thought to be the face of the thief who had, despite being identified got away with half a dozen bag thefts from women, either elderly or with childen pulling at their hems. Very quick, unobtrusive and smart. Ours was one of several churches and small shops he targeted until he was caught red handed with a stolen bag, arrested and identified as someone with along history of theft behind him. But that was several months ago, and we'd not heard since if he'd been charged or punished. So, was it him or someone who looked like him?

We found out on Friday, when the handbag of an 87 year old woman was stolen while she and a couple of others were opening up the tea room for business. The man, identified from CCTV pictures inside church during the brief period of the theft, ten minutes in and out, was the same as had been caught before, and had appeared, as I feared, on Sunday. It was as if he was there to annnounce "I'm back, catch me if you can." He's a clever predator, and always leaves a trail of distress and trouble in his wake. We're faced with a large bill to change keys now, as the stolen bad contained both house and church keys labelled. Once more, a place which we'd take much trouble to make safe, with CCTV cameras is shown to be vulnerable because it cannot be protected from a skilled and determined thief. Nowhere is sacred any more. The police are as upset as we are, but seem unable to deal with the increasingly unruly and unscrupulous elements of society. We are weighted down with a surfeit of laws meant to give them power to act, but also with a surfeit of paperwork which keeps them tied to desks rather than dealing with crime. Such a mess. What one earth can be done about it?

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