10 March 2006

Crime prevention in the Sydney CBD

A funny thing happened on the way to the office #2
About halfway between my office and the bus stop was a homeless man with the standard piece of cardboard bearing his story. It said, "Please give me some money so I don't have to steal."

At the risk of sounding insensitive, I object to his approach on several levels:

1. He seems to imply that he has only two options for getting food money - donations from others or stealing. In fact, in a city as big and relatively non-corrupt as Sydney, he has the services of several charitable organisations at his disposal, such as the Salvation Army, Wesley Mission and The Big Issue. I choose to give money to such organisations, because I trust them to spend the money on facilities that really help people.

2. It is not my responsibility to prevent this man from stealing. Certainly, if he turned to crime because I didn't give him any change and there was no other way of him getting money, I might feel a little guilty; but that's not the case. To steal or not to steal is his decision, not mine.

3. Call me old fashioned, but I think manners go a long way. I can't pretend to know what it feels like to have no home, no clean clothes and no money, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't render people incapable of saying "excuse me please" and "thank you". I can't remember a time when I didn't give change to someone who asked for it nicely.

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