One day last week, I had to go to a part of London that I don’t often pass through. It is south of the river and between London Vauxhall and London Bridge, but quite a way back from the river. I was around Lambeth, Kennington and Elephant and Castle. I used to go down to Elephant and Castle quite a bit because I had a lot of Spanish speaking friends who lived there. But it has been a long time since I was there, and as I was walking, I found I started to become a bit nervous.
I was not nervous until a young man did something that I thought was a bit strange. I saw him in the distance walking, and I noticed that when he saw me, he turned around and started walking away quickly. As I was approaching the corner of the pavement and needed to cross the road, I realized he was behind me. I couldn’t see him, but I knew he was there. So I swung around and grinned and I said “Hi, how are you?” in a big friendly voice. I think I surprised him, because he gave me one funny look and then walked off in a different direction.
Further down the road another young man who was riding a bicycle started to circle me. Round and round he went. I was convinced he was going to try to steal my phone or purse. So I pulled out my phone from my pocket. Why did I do that? Because I have a battered up old Nokia phone that does not work properly. I can’t have telephone conversations unless I put the other person on loud speaker and one of the keys on the key-pad does not work. I think producing my phone was a good idea, because not long after, he rode off.
Then another young man standing on the other side of the road, crossed and started walking towards me. Yet again I pulled out my little Nokia. He stopped and turned around and crossed back over the road.
I was trying not to be paranoid, but it was all a bit weird. I was very relieved when I saw several Asian family groups ahead exiting a building and merging onto the pavement I was already on. They all seemed to be carrying Tupperware, and I wondered whether they had been at some kind of social gathering. I was glad to be within the families, and felt safer not that I was not walking along on my own.
When I am out and about in London I rarely carry anything valuable. I have my keys of course, my battered Nokia phone and my Oyster card so that I can travel on the London transport network. I also carry a one litre water bottle so I don’t have to buy a drink when I am out. If anyone stole any of those things on me, they wouldn’t be profited…but it would be so annoying and would inconvenience me greatly.
Maybe those boys were not up to anything and I was just being overly nervous. But, every time I look at the BBC News website, it makes me feel this world is just descending into a place where it is more likely I am going to be a victim of crime. I have already been the victim of a serious crime, the last thing I want is to be stuck miles away from my little abode without my Oyster card or my bashed up Nokia because of some unconscionable opportunist.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live in a world that feels safe? A world where there is no crime, no violence, no terrorism and no warfare. I don’t want to be nervous walking down the street in the middle of the afternoon. And bless them, people criticise politicians, blaming crime on police funding cuts.
I read something very interesting last week in a little pamphlet I picked up from a display near St Paul’s cathedral. It was all about the changes we need to enjoy real safety and security. It gave the example of a patient in hospital who was in pain. If the doctors just kept on giving the patient pain killers and did not tackle the cause of the pain, the person could deteriorate (or even die). Police have an important role and I am grateful for their hard work. But more police, more security cameras, more prisons, etc is not going to eliminate the reasons why people do wrong things and turn to crime.
Well for now…I am going to be as shrewd as I can and keep my eyes wide open when I am walking in areas I am not very familiar with….and I do think my battered Nokia is an asset!