JENNI MURRAY: My friend's burglary has made me a CCTV convert

JENNI MURRAY: My friend’s terrifying burglary has made me a CCTV convert

  • Chris Philp, the crime and policing minister, proposed a new plan for catching thieves
  • READ MORE:  As a lifelong nicotine addict, I’m enraged to see influential celebrities like Kate Moss, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Stella McCartney puffing away

I’ve never been one to welcome the fact that there are now cameras everywhere. I’ve hated being spied upon when I’m driving the car, going round the shops, even walking down the street. 

There’s either a big camera recording me on CCTV or a little camera peering at me from a neighbour’s doorbell.

Big Brother, I used to cry. Is there no privacy? Can I not get away with even a slight mistake like turning left up a road I’ve travelled a million times only to find the rule has changed? Today it’s a no left turn. Caught, fined, infuriating.

You’ll be surprised, then, to learn that I’m delighted at the announcement made this week by Chris Philp, the crime and policing minister. 

Speaking at the Tory conference, he said widening the use of the available technology would be a ‘game changer’ for catching thieves. 

Jenni reports that everyday the Nextdoor neighbourhood app in her part of North London has new messages from people whose cars, bikes or phones have been stolen (Stock Image)

The plan is to use CCTV, dashcam and doorbell images and, using the passport system, identify the shoplifters, burglars and thieves who’ve been making all our lives a misery.

Philp intends to allow police forces to search not only their own national database which holds information on people who’ve been arrested, but to connect to the passport database which has all of us who’ve ever travelled.

The immigration and asylum biometrics system would also search foreign nationals who are not on the passport database.

Crime and the fear of crime have risen to a terrifying extent such as I’ve never experienced in my long life. 

Every day the Nextdoor neighbourhood app in my part of North London has anguished cries from people whose cars, bikes or phones have been stolen, costing them hours of grief in dealing with the police and insurance companies.

Every day people are asking: ‘What can we do to stop this?’ I sense the possibility of vigilante groups forming and that can only lead to violence on the streets.

Of course, it’s when such incidents come close to home that you begin to revise your rather liberal view on the right to privacy.

Early last week I had a 6am call from a good friend who lives nearby. She was shaking with fury and fear. 

At 2am, she had woken her husband saying she could hear someone in the house. He seemed to be outside their bedroom door. They heard him walk down the stairs and out to meet up with the other four guys circling around their Land Rover.

Clearly the intent was to steal the car, but the tech which enables thieves to get into a keyless system was of no use. The car had a proper old-fashioned key, well hidden. 

Jenni is behind the government’s plan to use CCTV, dashcam and doorbell images and, using the passport system, identify the shoplifters, burglars and thieves who are causing misery

The thief who broke in had searched every drawer in the house looking for it. No luck. 

He stole a wallet left on the kitchen table and a knife from the kitchen. Lucky my friend’s husband had been persuaded not to tackle the intruder. The knife might well have been used.

The police were called. Two officers turned up long after the robbers were gone. Not much the police could do, they said, apart from give a crime number for the insurance. 

The crime investigation team came later. No evidence available. Obviously, the thief was wearing gloves. No interest was shown in the video evidence.

One neighbour has a full CCTV system which showed clear pictures of three of the gang members. The two other burglars were a little less clear from doorbell cameras but still appeared identifiable. Under the proposed system they surely could have been found. Case closed.

A week later my friend and her husband were in the sitting room watching TV. It was just getting dark and there were no lights in the front of the house. They weren’t worried. The front door had been fixed and had a strong new lock. 

They heard the smashing of glass. The gang was back. When they realised the house was not empty and police were being called, they scarpered, fast.

The police turned up, ummed and ahhed, offered a crime number and left. Again, no chance of an arrest, no questions about video evidence. Again the CCTV showed two of their faces perfectly clearly.

The gang of thieves have no fear of being caught; while my friends are full of fear. 

The home in which they had been cosy and safe for years had been violated by ruthless young men no doubt paid to pick up valuable motor cars and ship them abroad.

My friends are far from the only ones to suffer. There seem to be several gangs of fearless thieves around my part of North London and I doubt any part of the capital or other cities are much better. 

The Philp plan can’t come soon enough, but it will no doubt take time. The databases need to be connected. A time span of two years is predicted.

Please, crack on with it now so that it’s too late to stop should an election cause a change of government less keen on a ‘face and trace’ tactic. 

We’re all sick of living in a 21st-century criminal equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah. Please, make us safe again.

At last, a man talking about miscarriage

Former England rugby international Mike Tindall has spoken out about how his wife Zara struggled after her miscarriage 

How unusual, but how encouraging, to hear a man talking about his wife’s suffering after a miscarriage.

In an interview in The Times, Mike Tindall explained how hard it had been for Zara and what a ‘terrible journey it is for mothers as they look at themselves like it’s their fault’.

As a former England rugby international, he’s a big man and even bigger for revealing the pain of his private life.

I was lucky to get a great seat for the first night of the Royal Ballet’s Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House. A wonderful evening, but a shock on seeing those great red velvet curtains were a year out of date.

‘ER’ said the giant gold lettering — twice. Come on, I thought. Get the best needleworkers out and make it ‘CR’. Royal all round but let’s mark the right monarch!

Dame Sue Carr chose to be Lady Chief Justice

Hurrah for ‘Lady’ Chief Justice

Dame Sue Carr, elevated to one of the highest legal positions in the land, could have chosen to be Lord Chief Justice or just Chief Justice, but no.

As the first woman to be appointed to the post, she’s chosen to be Lady Chief Justice.

How reassuring that a woman with such power in the law knows sex matters.

Get those mobiles out of schools!

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has announced a mobile phone ban in all English schools (Stock Image)

Well done Education Secretary Gillian Keegan for announcing a mobile phone ban in English schools.

No better way to get children away from often damaging social media sites and introducing them to books.

No Wi-Fi required, no pinging notifications, no porn. Instead, material that’s actually worth reading.

Driving back from Bournemouth last week I stopped at Fleet services on the M3 where I discovered EV charging rage is very real. There was a group of four or five blokes having a right barney with another whose car was plugged in. 

Thank goodness I was just there for a quick fill-up with old-fashioned petrol. 

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