I used to be a libertarian. But then someone stole my gold clubs.

Wanting the state to intrude less in our personal lives is all well and good until a lack of CCTV cameras lets a man walk off with your prized belongings

Simon Kelner
Friday 12 October 2012 13:07 BST

How difficult it is to stick to one's firmly held beliefs once the realities of life intrude. I listened to Chris Grayling get tough on burglary and thought that it was little more than a charter for anyone to have a shotgun under their pillow in readiness to blast an intruder to kingdom come.

Similarly, my view of the police has been coloured by recent events. Do they do anything other than have posh dinners with senior members of News International? That is, of course, when they're not in the spa at Champneys, or kettling students, or bungling investigations.

And what have I thought about CCTV? Like all libertarians, I am alarmed by the proliferation of these cameras, believing their ubiquity to be another example of how the State intrudes into our personal lives.

Then yesterday, I had my car broken into. My immediate thoughts ran somewhat contrary to my considered mindset. First, if I had a weapon, I would cheerfully have wielded it – possibly even with grossly disproportionate force – against the person who stole my golf clubs. And second, why the hell was there no CCTV camera nearby to record this violation?

Another preconception was shifted when I began dealing with the police. Unlike my insurance company (who, it seemed, were interested only in telling me what they wouldn't pay, and why they wouldn't pay it), the police couldn't have been more helpful, and were assiduous in making me feel that they took me seriously as a victim of crime, even though, in the wider scheme of things, this was one of the Met's least important investigations.

If I had a weapon, I would cheerfully have wielded it

It turns out, according to the constable who visited me, that the borough in which I live – Kensington & Chelsea – has the lowest number of CCTV cameras of any borough in London. Although it is an area that can well afford a few more cameras, he said, it is also home to many of those who oppose them, either for personal political reasons, or because they feel they're too rich and/or famous to have their movements recorded.

So I was left simply with a Victim Care Card, which explained the next steps of the investigation and pledged to treat me "with dignity and respect". I felt something of an impostor being treated as a "victim", given the relatively trivial nature of this crime, but this direct experience did make me question my overriding feelings about the police.

I have always admired those who stick to their principles even in the face of terrible personal tragedy – the parent whose child has been murdered, yet who speaks of compassion and understanding and not simply revenge – and yet, here was I, in the face of a minor infraction, prepared to compromise my beliefs.

I suppose that's what life teaches you: don't box yourself into a corner with your views, and if you do, be prepared to stick with them come what may. In the meantime, if anyone offers you a set of golf clubs with my name on them, you know where to come. Have a nice weekend, and, as my police officer might have said, be careful out there.

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