Richard Swainson: More than windows shattered when criminals strike

Janine Swainson with her pride and joy, 1952 Morris Minor, Mavis. Over Easter, Mavis won the Best Standard Original ...
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Janine Swainson with her pride and joy, 1952 Morris Minor, Mavis. Over Easter, Mavis won the Best Standard Original category at the NZ Morris Minor Convention. On Tuesday, thieves hurled a brick through her window.

OPINION: I am a victim of crime. Again. The news was delivered via telephone. Tuesday morning, 8am, a neighbour phoned to say that both our cars had been broken into overnight.

I approached the scene with trepidation. Shattered glass surrounded the area. My vehicle had been attacked in the same spot as last time, though then pseudo-professionals had the nous to just prise the rear driver's side window open. On this occasion the animals had used the path of least resistance, smashing their way in. The glove box yawned wide and empty. CDs were strewn everywhere, yesterday's technology, of no interest to today's thieving class.

As bad as my car was, the crimes visited upon my wife's vintage vehicle were heartbreaking. The 1952 Morris Minor, christened "Mavis" so successfully that even hardened mechanics used the moniker with affection, had been violated. An industrial size brick stood upright, proud and ugly, declaring itself the means to a most unholy end.

It takes some imagination to conjure the reasoning of someone who would pick up such a thing and wilfully throw it into a beautiful 65-year-old antique. A debased creature, an opportunist animal. Did they really think there was anything of monetary value inside? Did they have the skills to start and drive a manual car, one so distinctive that it would be spotted with ease on the open road? Or was the act of violence a statement in itself? Was this desperate plea for attention from a loveless soul, a victim of abuse, a tragic case of tragic circumstance? Well, I don't care. Whatever your sob story it doesn't justify taking it out on my wife and her pride and joy. I am the archetypal liberal who has been mugged. I want cruel and unusual punishment. I want the perpetrators sent off to the colonies, never to darken the streets of Hamilton again. I want shame and humiliation to come their way.

Over Easter, Mavis the Morris won the Best Standard Original category at the 26th New Zealand Morris Minor Convention. Now she stood desecrated, her passenger window shattered, the glove box denuded of its sentiment treasure. The loss of one precious item could not be contemplated. A log book, begun in 1952 when the car was first purchased and carefully maintained by each subsequent owner, had been stolen. My wife was inconsolable. I was inconsolable. What possible use could these neanderthals have with that?

After the initial shock had been absorbed, the authorities were phoned. We were met with the type of professionalism that stops just short of empathy. We were offered victim support. We demurred. The offer was well intentioned but we would rather have justice than counselling, thank you very much. Just show up at the crime scene, assess the evidence and catch the criminals. Do your job and we'll be happy.

A pipe dream.

To be fair to police, an officer was dispatched the next day. By that time I had been forced to cover up the windows and clean up the exterior glass. It had rained in the interim, washing away all those potential DNA traces. The policeman was a nice chap. He confessed that the city was in the middle of a mini crimewave. Many cars had been stolen. He had a busy day of fingerprinting ahead of him. Security advice was given with sincerity and a pleasing lack of condescension.

In the time since I have entertained a fantasy of what would have happened if we caught the bastards in the act. Would I have had the cojones to defend what's ours, perhaps brandishing an old squash racket or Janine's terribly pretty, pink flamingo-handled umbrella? A broken string up the backside or a plastic beak in the gonads would have sorted them out.

Another pipe dream.

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I don't think I have either the courage or the strength. Besides, the tragedy of poor Norman Kingi looms large as an example of what can happen when you face off against the bad guys. Or bad girls. If a veteran rugby player hasn't a chance against a gaggle of knife-wielding teenagers what chance I?

The best the likes of us can do is bear witness and endure and maybe get past the shock of the immediate and contemplate a society of haves and have-nots.

It also pays to have a good look around the corner. That's where I found Mavis's log book, callously discarded. A small but precious mercy.

 - Stuff

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