Saturday, 31 March 2007

A POOR EXCUSE

How often do we think ourselves into crime?This was a question I had often asked myself. Something must occur in the mind between good and evil behaviour. Some thought must be made in order to step over the divide into lawlessness.
When I caught him, he had an easy answer to this question. ‘It’s perfectly logical,’ he said. ‘When I choose a victim, I use a simple process. Poverty, as you know, creates crime. My victim is poor. So by implication HE is a criminal. So I am doing a social good by doing crime against him.’
The logic was not so obvious to me. And words such as vigilante came into my mind.
I had been hired by the committee of a run down housing estate. It was a typical estate found in any city. Poverty was rife, and along with it came drug abuse and the myriad crimes to support it.
They were in absolute despair when I arrived. They had hired a private investigator because the police had totally failed to stop the crime wave that was blighting the estate. ‘It’s not like the normal crime we get,’ said the chairman of the committee. ‘It’s more targeted.’
The police had failed for a reason, and the secret of my success was working out what that reason was. They had rounded up all the usual suspects, the petty criminals, the gang leaders, the desperate heroin addicts. But none fitted the bill. The estate seemed to be targeted by a more sophisticated criminal, indulging in silent beatings in lonely alleys, burglaries, and even arson. There was no sense to it, but still a pattern yearned to be identified. Which was when I came up with the idea that it must be a vigilante.
Once that deduction had been made, it became quite easy to set a trap for him. And that is when I caught him. That is when he equated poverty with crime.
‘But most of the victims of crime are poor,’ I reasoned, but he was having none of it. He had become sure of his logic, and he would continue to believe no matter what evidence I came up with. Unless, that is, I could come up with an argument that would pierce the mental armour he had constructed around his actions.
I studied him intently, his expensive clothing, a Rolex watch, a Mercedes parked close by. ‘So tell me,’ I eventually said, ‘if poverty creates crime, why do you do what you do?’
He looked puzzled. ‘Explain.’
‘You are a criminal. Yet you are rich.’

© Anthony North, June 2006

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