01 May 2009

speaking of Swine Flu...

Last night I was witness to an actual real life crime, the type you normally only read about in the Evening Herald or Bog Cuttings in Phoenix, the type conducted by actual criminal types who are normally not the brainiest folks in the world, and quite unlikely to be portrayed by Kevin Spacey in the movie adaptation of their life. In truth these plucky young tykes would be lucky to be played by Billy Bob Thornton.

At about 9:30 I was walked down a relatively busy street and saw a group of five teenagers dragging a scooter along the path. It was quite a big scooter, probably a two seater, and the front wheel had been locked with a chain (though unfortunately its rather careless owner had failed to lock the chain to something else less mobile), thus rendering it unwheelable. This did not faze our group of daring desperadoes, who between them managed to tortuously push and pull the scooter horizontally on its side along the path seemingly oblivious to the sound of scraped and bruised metal this action elicited, a sound that could only generate a single response in any audience, that of "Oh, that's not good", but somehow the gaze of dozens of eyes on them from across the road did nothing to halt their theft.

However every time a car or bus came round the corner they dropped the scooter, and ran off down a nearby lane.

So basically they were more afraid of a bus moving past at speeds too fast to notice them than the six or seven people across the road watching them carefully. Definitely Billy Bob Thornton territory.

Now that I am firmly ensconced in my thirties, I seem to have developed a sense of civic responsibility. I have decided that this must be related to the development of certain parts of my taste buds, for I am certain that it arose simultaneously with my new found love of broccoli, asparagus and beetroot, all of which produced the same distaste in my mouth not so long ago as An Garda Siochana, but now are a staple of almost every meal*. Thus it was with this vague sense of public duty in mind that I went off to report this crime.

But how to do so? Slow and all as these nascent Portobello Five were, the police are not known for their response time to reports of mere thefts. Given the alleged limited resources they have, I did not want to call 999 and divert manpower away from essential functions like investigating cartoonists and caricaturists who sought to undermine the moral authority of our political leadership. My only choice was to try and find an actual Garda on the beat and try and report the crime in progress to them, but I held out little hope of finding one as there was almost certainly something good on the telly at that time.

But then, miracle of miracles, across the road and not 200 meters away from the scene of the (still in progress) crime, I saw a Garda motorcycle parked outside a kebab shop. I went inside and found this dutiful leather-clad guardian of the peace waiting for his kebab and texting on his phone (no doubt very official business). "Excuse me Garda", I asked, in my most grown up voice, "I'm sorry to bother you on your break, but there are a group of kids stealing a scooter about 200 meters up the road". He didn't even look up form his texting (as I said, no doubt it was very important business), and replied "Thanks, I'll get right on that", and continued to text, making no sign of immanent movement. "Um, ok, thanks" I said, and slowly walked away, giving him every opportunity to demonstrate to me that he was actually going to move. Then, just as I had lost almost all faith in our police force, as I left the restaurant and moved on down the road I saw out of the corner of my eye our noble Garda finish his text, put away his phone, and stride purposefully with passion and intensity burning in his eyes.

All the way up to the counter to pick up his kebab, and return just as majestically to table where he sat down to enjoy his well earned reward. Less than 200 meters away from where an actual, honest-to-god crime was still probably occurring, given the size of the scooter and the ineptitude of the criminals.

I returned home somewhat disillusioned, and although in theory my civic responsibility had been fulfilled to the letter of the law, I couldn't let the matter lie and so decided to phone my local Garda station to report it a second time. "Hello," I said, "I would like to report witnessing a crime in progress". "We have a new policy,"said the Garda on the other end of the line, "that any reports have to be made in person at the station". I paused, momentarily confused, "um, but I saw this ten minutes ago and its still probably going on right now, as we speak." "At the station", came the terse reply.

So slightly less than 15 minutes later I was at the station. Civic duty has afflicted me quite seriously in my mid-thirties.

I gave my report, where and when the crime occurred, the direction in which the scooter was being dragged slowly, and offered to point out on a map the most likely place the scooter was now given its mass, the strength of the teenagers, and the relative incline of the road. Unfortunately the station had no map of the area accessible to members of the public. "Seriously," I said, "they were moving very, very slowly, and running away to hide every time a bus went by, and there are a lot of buses that pass by, at least one every 5 minutes. If you sent a car there now you would probably catch them."

"Thank you," he said, and went to move away.

"Even if you can't see them," I interjected, "you could just follow the scrape marks on the ground. They are very large, its a big scooter, and they are moving very, very slowly"

"Thank you", he said, and closed the hatch on me.

Naught for two, I left the station even more dejected. How difficult can it be to get the police interested in actually stopping an incredibly preventable crime? By now the scooter could have been no more than 500 meters away from its original spot. It was being moved very, very slowly.

Maybe the Gardai are dependent on the fourth dimension. Maybe they are powerless to act against the present tense, and can only engage with the past and future tenses. A crime is something that has occurred and has been reported, and therefore will be investigated and acted upon. But something that is currently occurring, well who knows how that will pan out? If the Gardai were to rush over to the kids with the scooter and scared them into dropping it and running away, then the scooter will not have actually been stolen, so no crime has occurred. What are the Gardai to do then? They intervened in a crime, but that very act of intervention caused the crime to cease to exist, so if there was no crime why would they have intervened in the first place?

Truly it is a paradox worthy of Xeno himself.

Unfortunately Templemore is not known for its philosophy department. Its hard not to view the Gardai as anything other than useless. Or possibly corrupt.

Obviously our only hope lies in masked vigilantes.

Or bigger, heavier scooters, and fatter, lazier criminals.

* the vegetables, not the police.



At 4:09 pm, Blogger Niall Murphy said...

They say you get more right-wing as you get older. If wanting the police to do something WHEN A CRIME IS HAPPENING BEFORE YOUR EYES AND THERE IS A POLICEMAN RIGHT FRICKING THERE is right-wing, then sign me up with Fine Gael.

I am, like Bill Hicks, praying for alien abduction to get me the hell out of this city.

At 4:41 pm, Anonymous belgravy said...

Its amazing, if you had only said to the motorcycle cop "someones looking funny at your bike, they headed up the road there," he probably would have gone to check it out. Sounds like the guards wasted your time. But fair balls for following it up, lets hope the teenagers don't read your blog ;)

At 7:40 pm, Anonymous steve said...

i had a similar incident many years ago when living in the flat in burgh quay. i came home late one night and on my way up the stairs saw a door slightly open into one of the offices and the light was on.. i figured ok it's late on a saturday night.. so i knocked on the door.. someone said hello, i said "eh..just checking everything's ok"... "yeah everything's fine" came the answer... i figured everything totally wasn't but didn't want to go in.. so i went back down the stairs and ran over o'connell bridge till i saw a garda.. right there.

ran up to him, pointed at the building, told him there was someone in there right now.. routing through an office.. quick come with me... but no.. "i can't cross over to the south side". exasperated conversation follows. he couldn't radio anyone useful seemingly. i eventually gave up on him and ran to pearse st garda station where i was told i had to join a queue. it took like 40 minutes in total for me to be told that someone would come round tomorrow.

we weren't really on good terms with the people in that office... but when i saw them the next afternoon they didn't really seem suspicious or surprised by my story as i explained it to them and the gardai who were then there..

very frustrating.

At 5:07 pm, Anonymous Micki said...

great story daithi :-) micki

At 7:40 pm, Blogger Snag Breac said...

That is completely and depressingly hilarious.

At least it was only kids stealing a bike though...

I remember trying hard to report an event years back and having a similarly fruitless time, but the incident was some woman trying to stop a man kicking the crap out of her in a car...


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