Apart from a short fad in the 1970s, for most of the past 100 years the crime of choice for the petty thief has been burglary. But the increase in the general level of house security has forced Jimmy Window-Jammer to diversify, and street robbery has become more popular.
With the nights drawing in, overground railway stations in south-east London (the land the underground map forgot) have become a popular location for the streetwise mugger. The Rail Passenger Council has claimed that many local stations have become too frightening for passengers to use them late in the evening.
Londonist was surprised to read that Lewisham, the commuter station for this writer, had along with Bromley seen more than 50 robberies in the past six weeks. Lewisham Station could hardly be described as run-down, dark, or quiet, even late in the evening. But at night there is a remarkable drop-off in the number of staff.
At least once a month you can guarantee that exiting the station at around 6pm will entail running the gauntlet of a dozen ticket inspectors, an equal number of British Transport Police, and not a few civil servants looking for illegal immigrants. But by 7pm they will all have vanished, leaving the innocent homebound traveller to cope for him or herself should a gang want to use them as a personal ATM.