Off the Wall -By John Clemison- Steel yourself ‘there’s a thief about’

Years ago, in Manchester, I used to run a battered old Mini. But I actually wasn’t the one who did most of the battering. It just kept getting stolen. A lot. The chaps who stole it weren’t quite so careful when they drove it. But it was easy to steal, perhaps because it was quicker to open the sliding windows and then the door from the inside than waste time putting a key in the lock. It was so easy that I used to go in via the window myself, and so thieves and ne’er do wells used to help themselves to a free ride home. Assuming, that is, that I had put enough petrol in the tank.

Nowadays, of course, cars are much more difficult to steal. Keyless ignitions, engine immobilisers, steering locks…. they all make cars difficult to make off with the vehicle unless you can happen to have the keys themselves. Which is what happened to my daughter earlier this year. A burglar had jemmied the front door of her London house and helped himself to some jewellery, plus the keys to her Kia Picanto, which was sitting in the driveway, polluting nothing, while she (responsibly) had taken public transport to work.

The reason I mentioned this is because, last month, a Torbay neighbourhood website called “Nextdoor Lincombe and Meadfoot” had as its top post “Lock your car on drive”. The bulletin said: “If your car is parked on your drive overnight, ensure you lock it. One of ours inadvertently wasn’t [locked] in Haldon Road overnight and someone went through the car looking for change or whatever they could find.”

Meanwhile, someone else on the same website complained that some rogue in the same area had helped himself to small change from under the dashboard, most notably “the high-value coins, while leaving the coppers behind” (shame!).

All of which reminds me of the day I lost most of my old clothes when an opportunist thief spotted a rather nice Marks and Spencer holdall on the back seat of my locked car on a country lane. He smashed the window and ran off with the bag, doubtless discovering later that the contents weren’t worth the trouble. It turned out the insurance excess to replace the window was far greater even than the value of the holdall. 

C’est la vie. I’d have been better off not locking the car at all. Trouble is, I’d have had to leave a note on the windscreen saying: “Before you smash the glass, do try the door!”

And that’s just asking for trouble.




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