North Yorkshire and some its most well-known hotspots often appear in surveys of top places to live in the UK. Those of us who reside here know why, and love our county above all others, appreciating its beautiful scenery, quaint villages and friendly neighbourhoods.
My dad was so proud of it that he used it as the setting for nearly every book he wrote, showcasing the landscape and celebrating the characters that made up such strong local communities. In many places, we still hold on to the values that we grew up with, assuming it is safe to leave money outside for the window cleaner, or a bag on the door knob for the veg man to fill knowing it won’t get stolen. This climate of trust has evolved over generations, and our elderly loved ones leave their doors unlocked so neighbours can pop in and check all is well. If one of our community is in need, then the village leaps in to help, offering lifts to the doctor, popping into town for shopping, making a meal or simply coming round for a chat. It’s the kind of idyllic life that you see on the TV in shows like Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small and Last of the Summer Wine.
So you can imagine how heartbroken I was to learn that some absolute lowlifes have destroyed the feeling of trust and safety in my home village. There has been a spate of burglaries by some toe-rags who think that preying on the elderly is an acceptable way to make a living. These smartly-dressed and well-spoken young people were pretending to be selling items, then blagged their way into the homes of residents and pilfered whatever they could quickly lay their hands on. On another recent occasion (whether it was the same lot I don’t know), they broke into bungalows to steal money and jewellery from vulnerable people in their eighties and nineties.
I understand why people with financial or mental health problems can lose all sense of perspective and there are many heartbreaking reasons as to why they feel the need turn to crime to escape their reality. But what I don’t understand is why they have no care for the long term impact on their vulnerable victims. I’ve seen documentaries about this sort of thing, where thieves attempt to justify their actions by declaring ‘the insurance will pay them back’. But it’s not about the material stuff is it? It’s about causing untold and lasting mental trauma on a person who should feel safe in their own home, who should be able to live out their final years in peace and security.
Why don’t they stop for one moment to think how they would feel if their granny or grandad was too afraid to stay alone in their house because some moron broke in and robbed them of their tranquil life?
The good news is that in the latest incident the swindlers were caught the same day thanks to the very strength of that community bond that I mentioned earlier. Please note those of you who might be tempted to try this kind of distraction burglary in a North Yorkshire village again: We know each other well, we know what’s going on because we look out for one another and are familiar with the routines of our residents. We easily spot when something is amiss and will be straight on to our friends, neighbours and the police. And with the benefit of social media, if you’re up to no good, that news will be spread at breakneck speed.
In this latest case, the community became like a team of detectives. One post on Facebook was all that was needed, with people from every part of the village watching out and reporting what they had seen and when. By the end of the day, the three ratbags had been caught and were in the hands of the police, and hopefully, those that lost possessions had them returned to them.
I suppose one good thing about this is that now we know how they work, we know their modus operandi (M.O.) and so will be on guard for it in the future. But even so, the repercussions will last for a long time and people like my mum will no longer feel safe leaving their doors unlocked.
Read more at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug
This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 16th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 14th September 2022