True Gripes: Don't stop, thief: People do not seem to give a damn

Related Topics
What do you do when you see someone nicking something in a shop? Well, what do you do? Most of us, if we can, pretend - to ourselves as much as anything - that we haven't seen it.

What if you go to the assistant and say: 'Those kids are nicking T-shirts' and the assisant turns out to be a gum-chewing dimbo who can only say: 'So?' Or to be too busy filching stock from behind the till to give a damn? What if the assistant leaps out and arrests the wrong-doers and wants your name and address and in two years' time you have to go to court and give evidence while the family of the accused spit and hold up signs saying 'We Know Where You Live'?

What if the felon turns out to be the shopkeeper's son, just picking up some eggs for the family tea? What's it to do with you anyway?

I once saw a woman with dirty hair and three children co-ordinating the lifting of pints of milk in a supermarket. I left them to it.

When I was a youngster I knew a remarkably talented group of shoplifters: the thing was to filter silently through Biba (when it was a department store on High Street Kensington), stealing everything in sight, floor by floor up as far as the Rainbow Room.

They would then compare booty in the fifth-floor Ladies', and then put it all back again on the way down.

If you really wanted something you would keep it and tell your mother you had got it at the Oxfam shop, but the kick was the skill, not the acquisition. Not being good enough to put things back was as looked down on as not being good enough to lift them in the first place.

Shoplifters nowadays have no class. They don't care who sees. They know that you are not going to say anything, because this is London and who gives a damn what anybody else does? They smirk, they wink, and they make you complicit.

A shaven-headed youth did this to me the other day in a food shop on the Uxbridge Road. He was pinching chewing gum from the rack by the till, while the assistant was getting cigarettes down for his friend.

I saw him, he saw me see him, he smirked. I found myself saying: 'Can't a big boy like you afford to pay for his sweeties then?' Oh my God, that's it, I thought, he's a computer-age, video-nasty psycho youth and he's going to kill me.

I could imagine the headlines: 'Dead for a packet of chewing gum; have-a-go mum knifed in Shepherds Bush.' But no. He said: 'Naah, it's all right.'

Success flooding to my head, I said pompously: 'It may be all right for you.'

'Naah,' he said once more, and his grin changed. 'I'm going to pay for it. And he did.

He hadn't been going to, but he did. So did I save my local store from the final chewing-gum theft that would have bankrupted it? Or am I just an idiotic and suspicious busybody?

All I know is I hate that assumption that no one gives a damn.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments