…they’re everywhere and nowhere      

They are everywhere. Other people. You don’t know what’s going on in their heads. They’re other people. They could be doing anything right now in the privacy of their own homes, these other people. Whatever you can imagine, or worse. Right now another person is murdering someone, someone just like you. Right now, someone is raping a woman. Right now someone is beating his wife. Right now someone is robbing a house just like yours. One of these other people is looking for someone just like you to take advantage of. And what’s worse, you’re one of them. You’re another person too.

These other people can be murderers, paedophiles, rapists, violent criminals as well as a host of other shocking things. Do you know who these other people are? Ten percent of other people are criminals and you are their prospective victim. However, as another person yourself, you might be a murderer, paedophile, rapist and or violent criminal. You could be one of these other people. How are the other other people to know?

Last year, over a million crimes were committed in the wider city region, crimes as diverse as gang rape, downloading child porn, fratricide, stealing new trainers, petrol bombing a neighbour’s house, stealing cars, stealing copper wiring from building sites, shop lifting, ram raiding, armed robbery, violent assault, postal fraud, attempted murder, serial killing and racist assault – each crime committed by just another person. With so many crimes being committed, so many other people committing crime, what are the police doing about it?

A million crimes means a million criminals walking our city’s streets, or a quarter of a million serial criminals, or a couple of thousand prolific criminals; also, a million victims crying out in pain – a million other people chafing against a million other people. Of that vast hoard of criminality, some few thousand are locked away, but the majority are free, living in a neighbourhood like yours, walking past your house, lurking in your back alley and waiting for you to leave for work, turn off the lights or say good-bye to your husband. How long will it be before they strike?

Assuming that the same people aren’t always the victims of crime, that certain people are no more prone to becoming victims of crime than other people, that the set of criminals and the set of victims are mutually exclusive, that other people will be victims of crime, that crime doesn’t pay, that criminals are people too, that it is only a matter of time, that other people have an existence independent of other people, that there are no anomalies in the space-time continuum, that the world is at it seems and not as it doesn’t, that there is no such thing as coincidence, and that the same people, other people, certain people and those people are all to be counted, then there is no knowing how long it will be before those people, certain people, the same people or other people will strike. But they will strike, of that there can be no doubt.

Jessie, her name has been changed to protect her anonymity, is one such other person, a person other than you, who is more than usually a victim of crime: “I can expect to be robbed or violently assaulted at least twice in any financial year,” Jessie told me. “But that’s just an average. There’s some years where I don’t get violently assaulted at all.”

When asked what a bad year is like, Jessie just breaks down in tears.

When asked if she has anything to say to the person or persons who committed these crimes, Jessie replied that she just cannot understand other people. “What can you say to these people?” she said. “What is going through their heads?”

The fundamental problem with other people is just that. There is, in fact, no solid proof that other people experience the world like you, see tables and chairs like you do, smell flowers in the morning like you do, love their mothers like you do, or feel guilt like you do. Other people are, and will remain, a mystery – a dark gap in our understanding of the world around us.

There are thousands of people like Jessie living in our city, people who are nothing like us, but like us, who are just waiting for the worst to happen, who know that the worst could only get worse, that the worst is worse than the worst thing they can imagine. One problem is that people have a fundamental, metaphysical, biological, physical and metaphorical inability to imagine the worst. As soon as people begin to imagine how bad things can get they have already fallen short. It could always be worse.

When questioned about “the worst that could happen”, the police are unusually uncommunicative. The official response is that “focusing on the worst possible scenario is both unhelpful and irresponsible.” Whether or not the chief of this city’s police has suffered from the “worst possible scenario” we will never know, as he refused to be interviewed. But it is clear that he has not – it could always have been worse.

Last week, in a suburb to the east of the city, a supposed up and coming suburb, three of these other people were seen lurking in the shadow of a disused mill. When the police were called they told a local resident that unless a crime was committed they would be unable to send a patrol. These three other people are still at large.

The number of cars being stolen on our city’s streets have reached “biblical proportions” according to one social commentator and concerned citizen. Six cars were stolen from the same street in the city centre on one night last week. Across the city, the picture is hardly better, with cars disappearing from outside people’s homes and workplaces, from inside garages and off driveways. There seems to be no depths to which these thieves will not sink in order to steal a car.

The brazen audacity of such thieves reaches new heights every day. And one only has to wonder – what new heights will be scaled today? What’s the worst that we can imagine? And why can we not imagine anything worse? Is our imagination faulty or simply incapable of such flights? How often do we read about unimaginable crimes, unimaginable depths of depravity, and unimaginable consequences, ramifications and implications? What’s the worst you can imagine? Try harder!

“Shock” and “disbelief” are the most common words used by people who are victims of crime. “Anger” and “”troubled” are the next most common words. Surprise is the order of the day, despite daily news reports detailing the worst that had, up until that point, not been imagined. So why are we still surprised?

“Nothing would surprise me,” a police spokesman said in reply to a question.

With the police clearly failing to be surprised, and also failing to protect us from the violent criminals and gang rapists who are freely walking our streets and hiding in the shrubs at the end of our gardens, what are we to do? Who are we to trust? How are we to know who is an audacious criminal and who is the next victim?

It is clear to this reporter that it cannot be clear. Other people are an enigma wrapped in a puzzle wrapped in another enigma. We cannot be sure. Anything is possible. The worst is yet to come. We can never be certain. No one knows what’s behind the bushes, beneath the thin veneer of reality or around the next corner. Therein lies the problem.


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