Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre McIvor: Crybaby burglars aren't playing fair

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The Ngawi community paid for standing up to intruders. Photo / Doug Sherring
The Ngawi community paid for standing up to intruders. Photo / Doug Sherring

I've never been a burglar (breaking into a building to commit a crime) or a robber (nicking something while using violence or the threat of violence to do so).

I've never wanted to get an adrenaline rush that way, nor have I felt that taking something of somebody else's was my only option to survive.

However, plenty of my fellow Kiwis have gone down that road. Quite a few are opportunistic burglars who grow up and see the error of their ways but you certainly see a lot of career burglars in the courts. People with charge sheets as long as the list of All Black first fives.

Although I know precious little about burglary and robbery, I do think that it's unreasonable to resort to the courts when you're caught red-handed and summary justice is delivered. There have been a long list of property owners who have taken umbrage at oiks stealing stuff.

Remember the Morrinsville farmer who fired a shot over the heads of two young thieves and compelled them to lie on the ground while they all waited for the local rozzer to turn up?

Then there was the Sheriff of Ngawi who organised his tiny coastal town to ambush the career burglars who'd been plundering homes and holiday baches. He ended up with a conviction and a hefty fine.

Now we have the case of Dave Clemence, who was charged with kidnapping and assault after setting an elaborate trap for burglars at his Kaiapoi business. With the help of his employees, he's alleged to have blindfolded the two men, knocked them around and tossed them in the river, before delivering them to police. The jury found him guilty of kidnapping because he took his sweet time taking the career crims to the police station, but not guilty of assault. So jury members either found the two burglars to be unreliable witnesses or they thought the pair of them deserved a bloody good boot up the backside.

Be that as it may, in each case, a burglar has been sprung and the property owner has ended up in trouble with the police. I don't think that's quite fair.

Surely, if you're a burglar, chances are you're going to get caught one day. You might have got away with 50 break-ins but the adrenaline rush comes with knowing that on any job, at any moment, you might get caught.

Being verbally abused is an occupational hazard of my job as a talkback host and columnist. It's fine. Water off a duck's back. You blink at the more vile and physically impossible suggestions, absorb it and move on.

Getting cold and wet is an occupational hazard of being a linesman. Getting arthritic knees is part and parcel of being a professional sportsman.

Getting caught red-handed by a seriously pissed-off property owner and being dealt to is surely an occupational hazard of being a burglar? Not everyone is going to shriek in fear and cover their face with their skirts when confronted with a stranger on their property. Some will come out swinging. And when they do, the burglars/robbers need to suck it up. This is the job they've chosen.

Most of the time the job is relatively easy. Break into someone's house or business, steal their stuff, bugger off back to your flat and have a spliff or a drink to celebrate. But occasionally, as in any job, things go wrong. You meet a Dave Clemence who takes a dim view of your trespassing and thieving, and makes clear his displeasure. When that happens, put it down to a bad day at work and move on.

If you're a burglar, running crying to the police when things go wrong seems to me to be damned unsporting.

- Herald on Sunday

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