Even Batman loses sometimes

Private Property South Africa
Shaun Wewege

This is my second attempt at my weekly Private Property feature. You see, I clicked “save”, shut-down and went to bed thinking I would give the future Pulitzer-winning piece a quick read-through in the morning.

But it was not to be. Thieves broke in and stole my Mac. I can only hope that before they wiped the hard drive, they at least read the musings that would surely have put me ahead of Dickens in the list of great writers. Who knows? Perhaps, at this very moment, they are in some seedy underground bar with other criminals telling tall tales of their heroic deed, bragging about how my literary effort was of more value than the computer they stole. But we’ll never know.

The thing about break-ins is that they turn ordinary folks like you and I into one part vigilante wannabe, one part Horatio Caine. Realistically, I’ll never see myMac again. I’ll probably never have any idea who was behind the break in, how they managed to evade security and how they got away. Yet this doesn’t stop people thinking of themselves as Batman or one of the Boondock Saints.

“Those guys are lucky I didn’t catch them.”

“Boy, if I was here when they tried to break in … let’s just say they would have had to call an ambulance.”

While the anger and resentment is understandable, if we think rationally, stumbling upon a robbery can go horribly wrong. Anyone who is willing to risk unpleasant prison conditions and potential police brutality is pretty desperate. Add weapons to the equation and you have a recipe for tragedy.

We need to cut back on watching CSI-type shows about forensic investigation. With the backlog of cases in South Africa, the main reason burglaries are reported is for insurance purposes. The likelihood of a monotone ginger who wears sunshades indoors (that’s me) arriving at the scene of the crime to deliver one-liners while finding the perpetrator, is unlikely. Instead, we’re left with rent-a-cops, passers-by and the odd nosy person for insight such as:

“You can see by the way that the door has been broken that they must have used a crowbar.”

“The guy was probably right handed. Look at the way the splinters fell.”

I blame the current Oscar Pistorious saga for producing arm-chair experts. If the trial teaches us anything, it’s that the shortage of forensic pathologists in South Africa is a lie. All we need to do is browse Twitter – there must be tens of thousands of forensic and legal experts. If you can’t trust the lifestyle blogger from Cape Town to give a flawless account of the events that transpired on that fateful Valentine’s Day, who can you look to for answers?

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