policeman reaching into carEnlarge Photo
Call us crazy, but if someone took a mobile phone, a briefcase, or a handheld GPS navigation system out of our car--even if it were unlocked--we'd call that theft.
The police in London's Richmond neighborhood take a different view.
When they see valuables left in plain sight in unlocked cars, they've been removing them and leaving notes for drivers to retrieve them at Twickenham police station.
Police say it's a tactic to tackle thefts from cars, which have risen 40 percent in the last year. And they say just 25 cars were checked, with only a single item removed thus far.
Still, British legal experts say the practice is dubious, and the police open themselves to lawsuits for damage. They also suggested precautions to ensure police could not inspect the contents of laptop computers and other personal data.
The Richmond police are holding their ground. "Technically we are entering the vehicle," said superintendent Jim Davis, "but we are not committing a crime. It's a common law duty to protect (people's) property."
Davis said it's important that people "take responsibility of [sic] their valuables."