D and I travelled to London on Tuesday for a romantic overnight break in the city. We saw a fantastic show, stayed in a gorgeous hotel and ate some wonderful food. It was pretty perfect, in fact. However, somewhere between our leaving the hotel in South Kensington and arriving at London Victoria Railway Station on the Underground yesterday, my purse was taken from my bag. I only realised when we arrived at Victoria and I noticed my rucksack was open.
Obviously, this is a major inconvenience, and I spent about half an hour reporting it to the police and cancelling my credit and debit cards etc. Luckily, our coach ticket home was in another pocket of my bag, so we managed to get home safely.
As soon as I realised that it was missing, I approached two Police Community Support Officers who were patrolling near where I was. They couldn’t have been more helpful, and immediately advised me to call British Transport Police to report the crime, which I did. However, one comment has really stayed with me. Both of the PCSOs said it to me in different ways:
“You should have kept your purse in a safer place, and been more careful.”
Similar comments were made by the policeman who took my statement, and one or two family and friends as well. At the time, I felt guilty. If only I hadn’t moved my purse to the top of my bag, making it easy for the thief to grab it so quickly. If only I had worn a bumbag instead of my rucksack. After all, we all know that pickpocketing and purse-snatching is rife in London, don’t we?
Since then, though, I’ve had time to think about this. And my main reaction is this – excuse me, but since when was it a criminal offence to wear a rucksack, or carry your valuable belongings near the top of your bag? I am not the one who committed a crime here, and I totally resent the implication that somehow I was responsible for what happened to me.
We live in a very reactive society. Only yesterday on the coach I was reading an article in The Independent highlighting the fact that, although our Government will rush to protect foreign civilians and our country’s interests when they are imminently threatened (in Libya for example), they are consistently burying their heads in the sand when faced with the more long term threat that Global Warming and Climate Change poses for us in the future.
In the same way, I feel that the onus is falling on us, the law-abiding citizens, to protect ourselves from them, the law-breakers, rather than putting serious time and resources into stopping these people from committing the crimes in the first place, or catching and punishing them when they do. It’s exactly the same attitude that leads to a rape victim being told that she “dressed provocatively” and being expected to feel some guilt about the violent crime that was inflicted on her. Crime is so often not about what we (the victims) do or don’t do, but about the perpetrators desperation, need, greed or desire for power over someone else.
Blaming the victim is the easy way out. Let’s not forget that the ones committing the crimes are the guilty ones.