Last Saturday I got home to find the milk was off and the cheese I thought might last the course of my absence, was now cultivating penicillin. There was nothing for it but to head to the market on a dreary afternoon when I’d much prefer to have been listening to my book in front of the fire.
Luck, it seemed, was on my side. Just as I reached the bus stop I heard the bus creeping up behind me so I took advantage of its comforts and climbed aboard. As soon as I got off the bus I went to buy tea. Then my luck turned.
As I came out of the tea shop I was conscious of a small woman in an oversized khaki coat with a woolly hat pulled down low. I went to the next shop and bought Easter eggs. There she was again, silently watching as the contents of my purse exploded onto the unsuspecting cashier.
Next I went to the charity shop because I have a sort of professional addiction to charity shops. I made my slow progression round the shop, nose to label so to speak and went to leave. There she was again. This time I had to squeeze past her. She made room for me, lifting the handbag she was looking at, oh so considerately to her shoulder, so that I could squeeze past.
I have to give her points for her artistry: Her distraction technique was simple and kept my focus on the shoulder height bag action she was putting on for my benefit. I never felt a thing. She relieved me of my credit cards and cash with style, bowed and smiled as she did so. I actually thanked her. Then she evaporated into thin air.
It was all so obvious but I hadn’t wanted to believe it as it was happening. Instinct is a powerful thing. Sight is not the only tool at your disposal. Just because you are paranoid that you are being followed, doesn’t mean that you are not. I’m kicking myself.
What I should have done was to stand in the street and yell as loudly as possible that a small woman in an oversized khaki coat (all the better to dress in layers of stolen clothes), had just robbed me. I was so surprised at what had just happened that at the moment a really good bellow was called for, I was rendered silent.
The shop manager told me that street gangs of thieves love charity shops. She said that they target and follow older and vulnerable people, (these are her words not mine). The blind truth is that I probably was targeted because of the advantage steeling from someone who can’t see much gives a thief.
The Police were sympathetic enough, but within minutes of filing the report and being issued a crime number, I received an email to say that they would not be investigating. I wrote to them to say that I believe I was targeted because I have a sight impairment and that I would ask them to reconsider their decision. A day elapsed. Silence. So, I sought out the local Police senior who agreed it’s worth looking at the evidence.
It turns out there is quite a bit of evidence. I know this because it is me that has gathered some of it. It is spread out across hundreds of miles. That means different Police forces co-ordinating their efforts which is a challenge. The clock ticks. CCTV evidence is lost. The trail goes cold. Case closed.
Arrest rates for crimes against disabled people don’t reflect peoples experience. There are no extra Police resources and the cycle continues.
If you are blind or partially sighted you are more likely to be a victim of crime. That might be opportunistic crime and it might be hate fuelled crime. Sorry to say, I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of both of these.
If you believe you have been on the wrong end of a crime because of a disability, the Police have a duty to investigate. They know this. It’s their job. It shouldn’t be my job to point this out to them.