Sunday, January 17

More than just a statistic

Despite enduring the worst recession in 60 years, crime is on the decline in Britain. Last year crime recorded by nation's police fell 5%, to a total of 4.7 million incidents. Violence against the person fell 6%, violence with injury was down 7% and robbery fell 5%; despite London’s most expensive jewellery heist taking place last August. Small rises were reported in domestic burglary (up 1%) and drug offences (up 6%).

Last year's jewellery robbery was a particularly brazen crime. On August 6 at 4.40pm in the afternoon, two men walked into a New Bond Street jeweler, produced handguns and selected 43 items worth £40 million, before making their escape in a sequence of carefully coordinated getaway cars. Only one other robbery has ever resulted in a larger haul, making it the UK’s second largest in history. Even the Great Train Robbery only ever netted £2.6 million, although this was the nation’s largest robbery at the time.

Video footage taken at the time shows the two men briefly taking a woman hostage and firing at least two warning shots into the air. The men also made no attempt to conceal their faces from CCTV cameras in the building or on the street which made the crime seem rather foolhardy. However, police later discovered that the men has used a professional make-up artist to alter their appearance using wigs, makeup and latex prosthetics. The artist, who’d spent four hours preparing their disguise, had been told his work was part of a music video. The robbery wasn’t a success, as within weeks three men were charged for the crime and put on trial. By October a total of ten accomplices had been arrested and charged.

Last year, August 6 was also note-worthy for another headline grabbing event in British criminal history. Ronald Biggs, the infamous Great Train Robbery criminal, was released on compassionate grounds on this date; one day before his 80th birthday. At the time he was considered gravely ill and unlikely to live more than a few months. However, as the New Year begins, he remains very much alive. Biggs became internationally renowned after his escape from prison in 1965. He fled to Brazil, via Australia, and lived in relative comfort for more than 35 years. In 2001, he voluntarily gave himself up to British authorities and was returned to prison to serve the remaining 28 years of his sentence.

On a personal level, crime has been very much front and centre for our respective families this month. My brother’s Auckland home was broken into while he and his family were on Summer vacation. Even more unnerving was the experience of Garry’s mother. She found herself caught up in an armed robbery at a Sydney Pharmacy. She was in the store when a man wielding a machete entered and demanded money. The staff complied and the man fled, later stealing another couple’s car by threatening them with the same weapon. A truly terrifying experience for all involved.

No comments: