Daylight Robbery

Did you know that the expression “daylight robbery” has its roots in the 18th century? It refers to a property tax that was based on the number of windows that a house had, with the result that many property owners started bricking up their windows to reduce the money they owed the tax man.

Today we use the term daylight robbery when something is outrageously priced. But yesterday, we actually saw another type of daylight robbery, theft that happened right in front of our eyes, on a busy intersection and bang in the middle of the day.

After lazing about for a few hours, we decided to head to St John’s Restaurant to pick up a couple of hot cross buns. We bought some a few years ago when we happened to be in London around Easter and they seemed like the perfect brunch food. Then, we decided to pass by The Jerusalem Tavern in the off chance it was open. The weather was drab and it seemed perfect to while the day away next to the fireplace. Alas, it was closed.

So we decided to head towards Soho. We’ve been on a quest to find the perfect bánh mì and we’d heard the Keu just opened in Soho. We started walking along Clerkenwell Road. It was not as busy as usual, it being around noon on Good Friday, but neither was it deserted. There were cars driving along and a few people walking. We were approaching an intersection and saw a man standing in the corner, towards the edge of the sidewalk, looking at his phone. Nothing unusual there. Almost everyone walks around phone in hand, staring at their device. In fact, it’s one of our pet peeves — people are so engrossed with what’s on their screens that they never look where they’re going. And while we try to avoid that, we too often stop to check our phones, especially if we want to find where a particular place is or check our map for the best way to get there.

We were very close to where the guy was standing, five feet or so away, when a motorcycle with two people on board drove towards him, jumped upon the sidewalk, going so close to him that we thought that he got run over. He wasn’t, but one of the people — we have no idea if they were men or women since they were both wearing helmets — snatched his phone right from his hand. Even the victim seemed not to realize what had happened immediately and after a couple of seconds tried to run after them. But the bike had sped away.

We stood there for a few seconds and then went on our way. We wanted to get as far away from that area as quickly as possible lest the thieves came back and tried to rob us. We both thought that could have been us, stopping on the side of the street to check our phone and determine where to go next. We felt horrible for the victim and hope that his phone was insured and backed up, and it spurred us to share the story as a warning to our readers to be extremely careful when out and about lest they fall victims of crime when they least expected. We also thought about a few things that we should all do to avoid problems:

  1. Don’t keep your phone on display: Instead of walking with your phone in your hand, put it in your pocket or handbag and if you need to use it to send a text, answer a call, or search for something, get away from the edge of the sidewalk and try to cover yourself, for example by standing close to a wall or even walk inside a store or a pub.
  2. Back up regularly: Our phones are more than just devices. They contain a lot of information and memories, like photos. By backing up your device regularly you avoid losing that data if your phone gets stolen. It would not bring your phone back but would lessen the aggravation.
  3. Consider a screen lock: Yes, having to unlock the screen every time you need to use your phone might be a bit of a pain, but consider this — if your phone isn’t locked, the thieves will have access to your information before you have the time to get to a computer and remotely wipe the device. What if they get access to your email and erase your mailbox, including important messages that you need? It might be worth the extra second to type four digits before using your phone.

We certainly hope that nobody falls victim to crime, and that the thieves are caught and punished. But taking a few small actions might help us lessen the impact.

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