Westray is an Island with a sense of community. Large extended families live here, with a high possibility of seeing distant relations on a daily basis. That’s one of the factors that leads to a low crime rate, after all, you wouldn’t steal from your own family, would you? There’s a significant moral code which helps guide people’s behaviour. The weather means that survival and mutual reliance are high on people’s personal agendas. If you did steal anything, there’s only one main way off the island and that’s a ferry which takes over an hour. Then there’s the almost complete absence of a police service. There may be crimes committed on the Island such as drinking and driving or driving an untaxed vehicle on a public highway, but when there are no police to enforce the law, those crimes take on a different complexion.
It’s always interesting to see new visitors to the Island drive up to one of the two shops in Pierowall, climb down out of their people carrier and put the central locking on by remote key-fob before walking into the shop. It’s what I did first time. Then I realised that it was an insult to the people around me. By locking my car (beep, double flash) I was saying “I believe you are all thieves and would rob me immediately if I was to give you any opportunity whatsoever.” I began leaving the car unlocked to a family chorus of “You haven’t locked the car!” and slowly began to change so that I left the windows open as well and maybe even a door if it was convenient. Leaving my camera on the seat with the window open was a further barrier I had to overcome. Finally I got there. Life’s so much better when you can trust everyone around you without question.
I discussed the freedom I felt with a neighbour who is an incomer to the Island. She recounted the tale of a neighbour of hers who had to move her car for her and was berating her for not keeping the keys in the ignition.
Life’s so much better when you can trust everyone around you without question. I still don’t leave the keys in the ignition though.