This week I am featuring the book “A Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell throughout my blogs. There was a point I wanted to highlight in the Wednesday Blog from the book. Trust.
Helen Russell, the author of “A Year of Living Danishly” finds out, during her research to understand why Denmark is constantly voted as the happiest country, that one of the big contributors to the overall state of happiness in Denmark stems from trust. The Danes trust each other. They don’t lock their bikes, close their windows, think that they are being robbed by the taxman or jealously guard their baby as if Cruella De Ville is due any minute.
They trust each other. They even trust their politicians.
I was in the police for 16 years and I grew up the child of police officers and the grandchild of a police officer. During my own career I worked on patrol for a short time and spent the majority of my service as a detective, the last 8 years as a sergeant on the Major Crime team, investigating murders and rapes.
Time and time again I came across people who were scared that they would be the victim of crime. Terrified of someone breaking into their house and tying them up. Expectant of being sexually assaulted. Genuine negative emotions that sapped their energy. Quite unnecessarily in my opinion. And I told them so and tried to explain why.
Crime just isn’t likely to impact on most peoples lives. Certainly not these massively traumatic violent crimes. The statistical likelihood of any of these happening is so minimal that you really are better off saving the energy to use on something more productive.
On all the murders I ever worked on there was only one stranger one. On all the rapes I ever worked on there were no abduction in the street ones. I did investigate one once. Turned out that she had made it up to get at her husband who had left her to get home on her own after a night out.
Now I am not saying that crime doesn’t happen. I wouldn’t have had a job it if didn’t. It’s advisable to be careful and consider crime. I remember when I was 19 and living in Cardiff I walked home alone after a late night out, to save myself the taxi fare. Nothing happened on my 4 mile drunken hike at 3am but it was a foolish move on my part. I’m not saying I was lucky, because I honestly don’t think it is that bad out there, but I do think we have a responsibility to be careful and try to avoid putting ourselves in potentially vulnerable situations. This is probably controversial but most of the burglars I ever met were ok. (The murders and rapists were of course a different matter!) They were just someone’s son or daughter, temporarily on the wrong path. I’m not being soft on them, I locked them up if they had done wrong, but in the main they were just normal people who found themselves in a difficult place. Often addicted to drugs and needing money. I worked on the burglary squad for a few years before I went to the Major Crime Team. The majority of the burglaries I dealt with were opportunist day or nighttime breaks where the culprit wanted to find the cash and get out. They didn’t want to meet the homeowner, they didn’t want to upset them. They just wanted to get the money and run.
That doesn’t make it right. It is a horrific crime. Horribly intrusive of a place that should be our sanctuary. But my point is the burglar doesn’t want to break in and tie you up. He (sorry, every burglar I ever dealt with was male) just wants to get your handbag as quickly as possible. I tend to leave my money downstairs so should someone break in they can quickly find it and leave without the need for a confrontation.
Now again. What I am not saying is that crime doesn’t happen. It does. We see it daily don’t we? There are some not very nice people out there and some people spending the rest of their lives dealing with what happened to them. But worrying about it happening wouldn’t have helped. Being scared of something maybe happening wouldn’t have helped. Taking sensible precautions. Learning self-defence. Being conscious of where you are and who is around you. Telling someone where you are going. Having plans. Being careful on-line. These things might have helped and are certainly some of the things I do. But in the main we are all the same. Just trying to get through life. Unlikely to have the inclination in our busy lives to bother with anyone else.
Trust is part of this and the Danish perspective certainly resonated with me because although I don’t have a fear of crime I certainly don’t trust anyone! I would lock my bike. I would close my windows. I would not leave my baby outside a cafe. That’s because I know that crime happens and my experience of it is that it tends to be opportunistic. So if I remove the temptation then the criminal will move onto the next house. An example would be particularly relevant in Autumn. The nights are drawing in and quite suddenly. We are caught on the hop almost. Getting in at the same time from work but now it is dark. The lights aren’t on as we will get in the habit of doing as we get used to the darkness again. There’s a window open. The thief walking past can see we aren’t in because all the lights are out and he can see a point of access. This is his chance. It’s early enough in the day to think that there is no-one in rather than everyone is in bed. He doesn’t want to risk confrontation. But if the lights are on and the window is closed then it suddenly got more difficult, too difficult, and he’ll keep walking until he finds the easy house.
So would I be happier if I trusted everyone around me? Am I right in thinking I don’t fear crime and yet I am conscious of it and behave accordingly? What’s your take on it? Do you think you trust everyone and are therefore happier? Am I too cynical? Am I too soft? Have you been a victim of crime? Were you worried about crime before? Are you fearful now? What is your crime prevention advice?