Georgina Guedes

The police don't care

2013-08-23 10:45

Georgina Guedes

My car was broken into yesterday. Nothing was stolen, because there was very little to take. Pffft! What South African would leave valuables in a parked vehicle? But that wasn't the point of the break-in. It was the whole damn car they were trying to steal.

By the time that someone spotted them and raised the alert, they had unhooked the connection to the car's hooter, effectively disabling the audible part of the alarm (why, Toyota, is that connection so easily accessible through the grille?), pried back the dashboard in two places and ripped out some electrics box.

While they were probably on the brink of making my car drivable for them, they had rendered it completely undrivable by me - because I don't have any experience or knowledge in hotwiring a vehicle.

In all of this, I was sad and cross in only a vague sort of a way. It's a sign of the global and local society that we live in that criminal actions like this only really ignite feelings of relief:
"Thank God it wasn't a hijacking."
"Thank goodness no one was hurt."
"Never mind the wanton destruction, at least they didn't get the car."

I am grateful for all of these things, but I was still surprised by my almost complete lack of emotion. I shrugged, I sighed, I called my insurance.

On the other hand, something that did irk me, even though, sadly, I am justified in expecting this too, was that the police never showed up. Of course they didn't. Why did I imagine for a second that they would?

Perhaps it was the fact that the three men had left their fingerprints visible to the naked eye all over my car. I had this vague fantasy that they would arrive with a forensics team, ready to store away the evidence that they would use to build a case against the perpetrators, because if they didn't catch them this time, they might the next.

I know, more chance of Bafana Bafana winning the world cup, but a girl can dream.

I feel that I'm entitled to be numb to crime after living in Johannesburg for most of my 35 years. But I don't think that the police should ever be entitled to indifference. It's their job to care, or to fake it.

To not come out to a crime scene to collect evidence, where three professional criminals attempted to steal an asset worth around R100 000, is a real slap in the face to the victim of the crime.

So, yes, I am relieved that my car wasn't stolen and that nobody I love was hurt, traumatised or kidnapped, but I am not grateful to live in a country where reporting a crime to the police is simply opening yourself up to the additional assault of their indifference.

I'm sure that there are reasons - budgets, shifts, crime volumes, whatever, but really, the police should be the custodians of personal safety and the face of a government that cares for its citizens. What their behaviour conveys is that the government thinks very little of us at all.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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