Every few weeks, I leave my front door to find a car missing its side window and a pile of glass on the pavement. One morning there were four windowless cars, all in a row; someone had already been out with duct tape and some bin bags in an attempt to keep the rain from their back seats. The debris from these thefts is just another feature of our London street, like the confetti from Chelsea’s Registry Office which flutters all the way down the King’s Road. But last Wednesday, at 8.15 p.m. to be exact, I witnessed my first attempted smash and grab.
The two cyclists hadn’t seen me, fag in hand, watching them from my balcony when they pulled up outside. They looked professional, dressed all in black and wearing motocross-style helmets with balaclavas underneath, kitted out in the closest you can get to SWAT gear for less than a hundred quid on Amazon. Each had a rucksack and each a high-powered LED light mounted on his handlebars. One made his way to the end of a row of parked cars to stand guard while the other started at the top of the line, using a pocket torch to look for loot in the front two seats, then the back. After the third car, my anger burst out. ‘Oi! YOU. YOU!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? EFF OFF! EFF OFF!!!’
The main thief looked up, shining his torch in my eyes. He paused for a second and then, with a defiant kick, pushed his bike onto the next parked car. I continued shouting obscenities into the street and he continued along the line. A few pedestrians on the other side of the road stopped to watch. Eventually, his look-out had enough, jolting off into the dark and, realising the game was up, the main thief reluctantly pedalled after him.