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To Protect a Burglar By: Theodore Dalrymple
City Journal | Wednesday, October 22, 2008


In Britain, there is a long and honorable tradition of local councils’ leasing small plots of land, called allotments, to people without gardens of their own who may grow fruit, vegetables, and flowers upon them. The tenants also receive small sheds on their plots for storing tools, fertilizers, garden furniture, and so forth. Unfortunately, another, less honorable, tradition has recently developed: stealing from allotments. Seventeen of the 50 allotments in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire have been robbed recently, for example, and the shed of one tenant, Bill Malcolm, has been broken into three times.

So Malcolm put a barbed-wire fence around his patch of land to discourage further depredations. The fence, however, did not meet with the approval of the local council, which worried about the risk of injury—to future burglars. Injured burglars might then sue the council. Another council, in Bristol, told allotment holders not to lock their sheds, in case burglars damaged them while breaking into them.

Needless to say, I am replacing the glass in the windows of my house with tissue paper, so that burglars—poor lambs—will not cut themselves while breaking and entering.


Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.


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