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« Wall- und Raumfahrt in Bremen - Gröpelingen 29.12.06 [DE] | Main | Dutch Iraq Torture: Documents show it really happened »

London Thieves and Police 22.12.06

London, November 9, 2006. X-Mas decorations appearing everywhere. Me meeting my best friend in the UK, Gabriel, between our afternoon meetings and his departure by train from Victoria Station. We found a moderately quiet public place to sit and talk, in clubchairs in a sort of corridor between the Hotel lobby and it's bar. Afternoon tea was served.

Wet get up, having finished our talk. I reach for my bag with laptop, camera end papers - but no bag any more...

Stupid. STUPID! I should have kept it closer. A seasoned traveller like me can be robbed, yes, but not in such a simple way. It should have been more dramatic.

But here are the good things that the event produced:

The CrimeStoppers of Belgravia Police Station delivering...
The London Police, contacted the next day, were quite different from other big-city polices I have had to do with. In spite of the fact, that thefts and robberies of foreign tourists happen 20 to 30 times a day in their sector, the Belgravia force handled my case, as if they were happy to serve and eager to deliver. I cannot exclude, that they really were.

The CCTV recording of the theft, I had meanwhile discovered with the gracious help of the Hotel Security Manager, identified the group of thieves. In stead of an uninterested typist, moaning under the charge of making his keyboard rattle, I got an efficient young woman who could have been my grandchild and who set a real chase for the criminal in motion. The eventual problems of the victim were not forgotten either. On my journey home, to Brussels, I was followed closely by a letter from a specialised department of London Police, who offered psychological help for victims. 

Not of any possible use for me, of course, but the letter in itself healed most of the mental wounds I had incurred from this event.

On former occasions, this would have been the end of the story. Those robberies are filed, and it becomes quickly and exclusively a matter for insurance companies. But not here. On an early Saturday morning, my Brussels phone ringed, and a voice belonging to a London detective with an accent "à couper en deux", as the French say, announced the arrest of one of the suspects. That jewel of civilisation which is called "habeas corpus" and that restricts detaining powers (without inculpation) to maximum 24 or 48 hours, necessitated some supplementary statements from me, so that a judge could decide upon further detainment of the suspect during the weekend.

Which was done. And -also a new and unusual kind of care- was confirmed by letter to me. With a number of details, that are restricted and I will not betray the confidence of the senders of the letter by publishing it here. Anyhow, all this will not restore my belongings to me. But this normal and consequent behaviour, which can, in my opinion only be delivered by a public service (No privatisation of the Police! - See European Petition on Public Services and Market that is featured elsewhere on e-urban.) is a positive experience.

This small adventure is worth remembering at the closure of this first e-urban year. It conveys some hope for a civilised Europe of sustainable communities. Hope that had to be so painfully absent from most of the other articles we published in 2006...

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