To teach motorists who leave their cars unlocked a lesson, police in Richmond upon Thames, a borough of London, have begun taking their stuff. The victims beneficiaries of these thefts educational efforts return to their cars and find that expensive items such as cameras, laptops, and leather jackets have been replaced by notes instructing them to retrieve their valuables at the police station. Not to worry, though: "If items are needed urgently," the London Times reports, "police will return the goods immediately." Which suggests that if you can't show an urgent need for, say, your computer, they'll take their own sweet time. The justification offered by Superintendent Jim Davis: "People would be far more upset if their property really was stolen."

What's worse than Davis' assumption that when the police violate your property rights it's not really a crime? The supine attitude of the British Automobile Association, which allegedly represents the interests of motorists:

The initiative was welcomed by the AA. "It would be quite irritating for motorists to come back to their car and find that items have gone missing. But on reflection they may think it is better that the stuff has been taken by the police rather than local thieves.

"I would imagine police patience is wearing thin and there have been other projects where they have set up cars as decoys and caught thieves. "

 [Thanks to Mark Lambert for the tip.]