Helen Martin: I doff my (police) hat to crime team

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IN the past year, houses to the front, left and back of us have been burgled. We are now part of the Smartwater pilot project, the free, forensically post-coded liquid in a lip-gloss type bottle and applicator, which police are handing out to mark possessions a house-breaker might steal.

There’s a temptation to get carried away and dab it on everything that isn’t nailed down in the misguided belief that any self-respecting burglar would make off with our battered, old, analogue, battery powered radio, but then you have the Blue Peter satisfaction of putting up stickers on your window. They say: “Thieves beware, this property is forensically protected”, which sounds as if a squad of CSI is on a stake-out in the greenhouse.

According to one neighbour who was done over, the police told her that burglar alarms aren’t really much of a deterrent. Everyone assumes it’s a fault until it’s been going on so long it’s become a damn nuisance and they phone the rozzers, by which time the housebreaker has probably retired to the Costa del Sol with his spoils.

The burglaries I’ve endured have been neither pleasant nor catastrophic, though I don’t deny some people are deeply traumatised by it and lose treasured possessions.

When I was about 14 a thief stole my underwear from the washing line in the garden. The police found it with some “mags” in a shed on a nearby moor and asked if I wanted it returned!

A couple of years later the first floor bathroom window was being painted. It was left open and the carpets pulled up exposing old-fashioned black underlay. The thief’s muddy footprints meant we could track his steps as he went into every occupied bedroom, into every drawer and finally woke my mother before taking off with nothing very much at all. “It was a mistake leaving your window open,” said the police. Yeah, thanks for that.

In the first flat I owned, before I had developed any sense of house-keeping, it took me a few hours to realise there was a gap where the TV should be. But the fact that my hairdryer was missing was the real clincher. The police came, looked round in silence, then one said sympathetically: “They really have made a mess.” I didn’t have the nerve to tell them it always looked like that. As it was a basement flat, one of the officers took pity on me and dropped round an old polis hat which, he said, when hung in a prominent place would certainly deter any intruder. So forget the alarm, Armstrong’s in the Grassmarket might be worth a look.

The last time I was broken into, my gay and normally gentle upstairs neighbour was the hero of the hour. He heard smashing glass, phoned the police, came down in his dressing gown clutching a rolling-pin and stood guard over a thief who had settled himself in my lounge and helped himself to whisky, his excuse being that he thought he was breaking into his sister’s house! I guess every family’s different.

Today’s housebreakers are often teenagers and children who can’t be held for long even when caught red-handed with a haul of Smartwatered goods in a bag marked “SWAG”. Under the circumstances, for Police Scotland to have solved half of all housebreakings in the city is an absolute miracle. Unreservedly, I salute them.

No profits for neighbours of Games camps

FOR some, the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games are a spectacular occasion with a wonderful legacy. But they can also mean massive disturbance and loss of amenity, especially as they get bigger and bigger.

I come from Giffnock, a suburb outside Glasgow which is part of East Renfrewshire. But it’s the home of Glasgow Hutchesons’ Aloysians Rugby Football Club, who plan to house 600 of the Games’ workers in a campsite for three weeks, complete with tents, parking for 180 vehicles, toilets, showers and cooking facilities.

Like many sports fields in the suburbs, it is surrounded by housing. Locals are worried about 600 transient strangers, noise, litter, waste, smells, security, traffic and loss of peace. Of course, the club is raking in a fat fee, having inflicted all the pain on their neighbours.

The powers that be will ensure that whatever the Games want, the Games get and the residents are dismissed as inhospitable and carmudgeonly.

Is that what they call a level playing field?

Ask politely and we might listen

DAVID Bowie’s Brit awards plea via Kate Moss for Scotland to “Stay with us” was met with nasty tweets by some of the Yes camp. Surely it was a compliment that the now New Yorker even realised we might be leaving? The rest of America would be hard pushed to point to Scotland on a map.

It was also refreshing to hear anyone, even an exile with “No” tendencies, say “Please stay” rather than “You can’t go, we won’t let you.”

If you ask me, Ziggy’s already raised the tone of the debate.

Give us a brake

ALL the tram troubles so far have been trumped by the revealed necessary braking distance of 91 feet in our “pedestrian-friendly” festival city. Drivers are being trained. If only there were no passengers, pedestrians or millions of foreign tourists, it might actually work quite well.