Home Page Just one statistic in a growing catalogue of local burglaries 27/01/12

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Hart of the Matter

There have been a variety of issues raised about Haverhill over the last few days but, in reality, there is only one major talking point all around the town and that is the fear of being burgled.


We have one or two very active burglars about at the moment Ė and I should know because one of the little ratbags swiped my compact digital camera the other evening by slipping in through the back door while there were people in the house and spotting it on top of the fridge.


For a while I just thought Iíd had a senior moment and forgotten where I put it, because the theft scenario seemed so unlikely. The house was not unoccupied, we have a powerful outside security light and a garden path so crowded that I fall over the pots quite often. The lights were all on, as was the radio.


But it just so happened that at that moment no one was downstairs for a brief time, and thatís all it takes. Now we will have to lock the back door even when we are in, not just to keep our property safe (we havenít got anything much worth stealing) but because I donít want one of my family coming face to face with an intruder.


I am just one statistic in quite a long list over the last two or three weeks, and the event had the added irony that I had only just returned from a police briefing about burglaries and written a piece urging people to lock their houses, sheds and garages. It just hadnít occurred to me you needed to do that when you were inside them.


Anyway itís taught me a lesson, but at an annoying cost. I looked into claiming off the insurance, but even leaving aside the excess, the increase in my premium next year if I claim would be more than the value of the camera. As we all know, the prime purpose of every insurance company is to make sure they never have to pay you anything unless itís enormous.


The days of treading on your sunglasses and claiming for them are long gone. Sadly, also long gone are the days when you could leave your back door open or your car unlocked.


I believe the theory is that the thieves are probably trying to fund a drug habit by stealing small and easily portable valuables, particularly electronic items, cash and jewellery. They drift around trying doors of houses, garages, sheds, cars, vans, etc, and they reckon at least one in ten will be open.


My visitor put a little more effort into it than that, because he or she (or they) took the trouble to bend my security light back against the wall so it didnít work, so I got a little bit more value for my money than some. We later realised theyíd been upstairs briefly as well, probably being scared off when they heard voices, which is an even more unpleasant thought.


I donít blame elderly people for being frightened at the prospect of this happening to them. These pathetic thieves would probably be more scared than you if you happen to come face to face with them, but you never know what they might do.


There has been a lot of speculation about the possibility that some street lights now being turned off at midnight might be partly responsible for giving burglars a better chance. All I can say is that our street lights are still on all night, and anyway my visitor called a lot earlier in the evening. Others I know of have dropped in during the daytime.


However, the police make the valid point that on some of the estates it can be pitch black without street lights, and then they canít see suspicious people moving about. Everyone is always urging that police should be out at night keeping our streets and homes safe. Well, they are trying, but if you canít see anyone it must be difficult, even with X-Files-type torches.


This, of course, is getting into dangerously political territory, because the lights switch-off is part of Suffolk County Councilís money-saving policies put together by its ruling Conservative administration. Anyone who starts raising this issue could be making a political point, and so crime has become a political football.


For most of us, I suspect, the more sensible approach commends itself, ie waiting until the police catch the current perpetrators, which surely canít be long now, if they are being as outrageously brazen as they were at my house.


What gets left out of all the arguments and what you donít realise until it happens to you, is the sense of invasion of your privacy which you suffer as a result of burglary. People entering your house without permission, even if they donít ransack it or cause damage, leave a very unpleasant taste and transform your more liberal opinions into wanting to see them put away.


David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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