Smash and grab

I was a woman with a plan.

If some asshole was going to hijack me or smash my car window I was going to go medieval on his ass.

I was going to be a hardcore Ninja assassin.

I was going to scream and shout and let it all out. I was going to stab him in the eye and punch him in the face.

I was going to floor the accelerator and drive off with him clinging helplessly to the car door.

Only, as it turns out, I didn’t.

I just sat there.

I think I made a sound that could only be described as an eep.

I was sitting in traffic, minding my own business, complacent in my daily route and listening to a podcast about crop circles. Just another trip to work.

Until my quiet solitude was rudely broken by the loud bang of shattering glass. It rained over me. But before I could comprehend that, the entire upper torso of a human being launched into the car and grabbed my cellphone. Just as suddenly he withdrew and ‘poof’ was gone. It took seconds.

I didn’t scream.

I didn’t fight.

I didn’t do anything kickass at all.

As a result of my inertia I am equally as annoyed with the thief (may he have a shitty Christmas) as I am with myself. I should have done something. Not sat there stricken dumb.

And there are the waves of self-recrimination.

What if I had another cup of tea before leaving the house?

What if I had taken the earlier off ramp?

What if I hadn’t had used Google Maps?

What if…?

Shocked panic gave way to intense rage which has simmered down into exasperation leaving me irked. I’ve never really had cause to use that word before, ‘irked’, but it seems to fit this situation quite aptly.

Dealing with the administrative aftermath was almost as taxing and traumatic as the smash and grab. I had to come to terms with the utter incomprehensible way in which our police service barely functions.

I went to a police station.

I was directed back to my cell provider for a blacklist number, which they didn’t want to give me because 3% of their revenues come from resold stolen phones.

I went back to another police station.

This time I could report it, but the forms would have to be sent in the mail to the first police station, which could take anything from 2 weeks to never.

Only then would I get a case number.

And then…

Everything is on paper. Labouriously written out by hand. Assigned a number in the big book and left to gather to duct in a filing cabinet somewhere.

How crimes are ever solved here is an utter mystery. It’s like the dark ages. Forget CSI, this is anarchy.

Not that I’m expecting anyone to solve the crime of the daylight robbery, but what if was far more serious? If a serial rapist rapes a different woman in a different neighbourhood every day, the cases will never be connected. This is because there is no national database or searchable record keeping.

And, here’s the rub. You see, even if someone programmed a simple interface where the cops could input the case data on a national scale, with searchable keywords, and even if that person went to the head of the police and gave it to them for free, it still wouldn’t be deployed because of the bureaucratic red tape, tender fraud and the fact that someone’s uncle’s cousin twice removed didn’t get the kick back.

I can’t solve this endemic problem, but I am going to take another shot at solving mine by going back to the police station this morning for another try.

I am somewhat resigned to the fact that my car will be windowless until the new year and that I will have to muddle my way through a digital world without a cellphone.

I feel better now that I’ve had a rant.

So, thanks for that.

The Man who stole a Picture

We have all been touched by it. We have all experienced it. We all live with it. It is inevitable that as the population increases so does the crime rate. What frightens me is how inured we are to it. We expect it. We accept it. It’s part of life. I used to fall into the camp that believed most crime took place by people unable to feed their families motivated by desperation. Now, I believe the opposite, most crime is organised, it is motivated by greed and envy, and more so by a deep sociopathic love for causing harm and terror. It is not about feeding the poor; it’s about feeling the power.

A work colleague has had her personal tragedy and terror spread across the front pages of national newspapers, not to raise attention to the state of our society, but to sell papers. In fact she would rather it had never been reported. She is scared enough. She’s been through enough and now she has to share that with a nation of people who will lap it up over coffee and cornflakes.

You can read her story here: http://www.iol.co.za/news/crime-courts/family-hostage-drama-1.1098068. What the newspapers didn’t mention was the true extent of her loss. Not only was the home invaded during a vigil for her dying father, but among the all the stuff that was taken were all the photographs of him. You can’t insure that. You can’t replace that. They are gone and the family robbed of more than items, but of its soul.

Today they grieve the death of a family member and try to cope with abject fear that they will targeted again. The gang knows where they work, the phone numbers, their friends, their email addresses, they have the keys to all their homes. Whether they choose to use them or not, the psychological power they wield over this family is shattering.

Ten years ago my husband and I moved to San Francisco to ride the dot.com wave. The move came hot on the heels of three break-ins at our home, a gun battle and the loss of pretty much all we owned. For months I’d wake up sweating and screaming thinking that it was happening again. I had kept it together then, but when the constant fear was lifted from me, I broke.

The state of our country today is not okay. It is not normal. It is not acceptable. Ordinary people should not have to take the law into their own hands to seek justice. The police should be above reproach. Like priests they should be held to a higher standard of morality. They should be heroes and icons not the people we fear. And we fear them. A policeman doesn’t make me feel safe, he makes me feel threatened. I hate that they got to me. I hate that I allowed myself to be bullied and frightened into parting with a bribe. I hate that I pay money every month for a protection racket masquerading as a private security firm. I may as well hire Executive Outcomes.

Sure crime happens everywhere, but in most first-world countries it is aberrant, the exception not the norm. Here in South Africa, we like to extol the virtues of our forward thinking constitution and our democracy and so on. We don’t live in a democracy. We live under a thin veneer of democracy, but in reality we live in tribal anarchy. I’d rather we were just honest about it. The fact is that criminals here are above the law. We watch our government ministers get away with murder, literally. The very people who should be moral leaders instead erode the fabric of our nation. And we wonder why crime is on the rise?

Meanwhile 19 people are trying to make sense of what has happened to their family. Children will remember the fear of imminent death hanging over them. They won’t trust again. Insurance can replace the things that were taken, but nothing will fix the scars, nothing will bring back the day before.