The New York Times Asked For Londoners' Petty Crime Stories & The Responses Were Wonderfully British
The New York Times got more than it bargained for on Thursday morning when it posted a Twitter callout to Londoners.
"Have you experienced a petty crime in London?," the tweet read, with a link to a short accompanying article. “A surge in violent crime,” writes a London-based reporter for the newspaper, has left the capital's Metropolitan Police “severely stretched” and "unable to pursue most suspects involved in minor property crimes".
Journalist Ceylan Yeginsu appealed for readers to share their experiences of "petty crime", to help the newspaper understand how the London police are responding. The paper probably wasn't prepared for almost 2,500 – largely sarcastic – replies it got. But we're British, after all, and they really should've seen it coming. Celebrities, journalists and members of the public all pounced on the opportunity to share their tales.
I was 'aving me shoes shined when I feels a commotion in the back pocket of me breeches. Little fella he was, goes by the name of the Artful Dodger. Got clean away with me purse.— Claire Cohen (@clairecohen) December 13, 2018
I saw a man clutching a fattened goose this Chrismastide, who stumbled and fell, leaving me holding the bird. When I plucked and prepared it, I found the blue carbuncle stone in its crop. Using deductive methods I was able to trace the culprit of the original jewel theft.— Stig Abell (@StigAbell) December 13, 2018
My trusted valet Jenkins witnessed a scuffle between an errant ne’er-do-well and a learned pig over who would eat the final chestnut at the frost fair, and he was most alarmed that the pig uttered several barbed insults in the Latin tongue, but using the vocative. Most unseemly.— Greg Jenner (@greg_jenner) December 13, 2018
I had to instruct my underfootman to make my valet some sweet tea, after someone pronounced his occupation val-lay rather than val-et. The upstart culprit still roams free.— The Stainless Steel Cat (@SteelCat) December 13, 2018
I stole a constable's helmet on boat race night in order to impress Stiffy, and Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE fined me five pounds. I rather suspect him of trousering the money himself— Rhiannon L Cosslett (@rhiannonlucyc) December 13, 2018
My gentleman’s gentleman was accosted by some young hooligans outside my club. “I say, those are some rum plus-fours, old chap,” they said. He was terribly shaken and had to take a half holiday. I had to pour my own pink gin this morning— Tom Chivers (@TomChivers) December 13, 2018
Others, meanwhile, seized the chance to take aim at the criminally high cost of living in the capital.
While others took issue with the many uncouth social interactions they'd had around the capital.
Good humour aside, it's true there's a crime problem in London – the number of killings in 2018 is the highest it has been for a decade and, as the NYT itself reports, just 4% of domestic burglaries were solved between April 2017 and April 2018, while the number of suspects caught for all crimes has halved to 9% over five years.
But the broadsheet has become known for missing the mark with its coverage of London and the UK and sometimes attracts ridicule. The paper misread the national mood when it described the UK "reeling" from terror attacks in Manchester and London. And again when it offered a "Brexit means Brexit" guided tour of London, giving US tourists the chance to "examine the historic implications of a historic vote". And who could forget the time it introduced readers to a sweet “large fluffy pancake” that was quite clearly a Yorkshire pudding dusted with icing sugar?