Just imagine – a world without crime

The other day I had a meeting at my bank, and before any discussion could take place, I had to give my date of birth and my memorable date and answer other security questions.

A few days earlier, as I was walking through a London square, a little child of, perhaps, two or three years old ran up to me as I walked past and put his hand in mine. His parents called him back – “Say goodbye now”. I also said and waved goodbye, but the little boy persisted, placing again his little warm hand in mine. I knew that he would have to be taught that such behaviour was not safe, but I was moved by a moment in which I was able to share the trusting innocence of a child.

I wondered then how it would be if crime did not exist.

In some corners of the world, and in the living memory of people elsewhere, particularly in small communities, trust is the only security. This summer, on a small Scottish island with a population of only twenty human beings, I found unlocked doors and cars, and a shop without staff – just a bowl to pay for whatever is taken.

In a world without crime, there would be no need for locks, keys or alarms. No insurance against theft; no need for the shredder, call or window barring or all those passwords. With trust as the default setting, how much more relaxed our world would be. A world where all could walk without fear, whether through city streets in the early hours, or in remote woodland. A world in which children would not have to be warned against predatory strangers.

A few years ago, I took part in a conflict management workshop in a young offenders’ institution. The young men were full of contempt for our ignorance of the conditions in which they lived, the “rubbish” communities from which they came. On the last day, I ran an exercise called “Imagine a better community”, in which small groups were invited to draw a community in which they would feel happy for their children to live. And they drew the most beautiful pastoral scenes, with open doors, people holding hands, growing crops: an open community with shared resources. Even those against whom we bar our doors, those for whom crime is a daily reality, wish for a different world, a world without crime.

And, since “crime” is defined only by what we decide to criminalise, maybe it’s better to concentrate on the positives, and imagine a world, a community, of kindness, peace and equality.