Keying cars is pointless criminality

Thursday 11 February 2016

What makes someone “key” a stranger’s car, deliberately and spitefully inflict unsightly scratches into the paintwork?

I’ve often wondered what provokes such mindless, mean-spirited behaviour, and what precisely the perpetrators get out of it. Do they stand back and admire their handiwork?

Probably not, they’re too busy scurrying away in case they get caught.

I was in my local supermarket car park this week and noticed a middle-aged man sadly contemplating his vintage Jaguar.

It was a beautifully restored Mk II, the Inspector Morse model. This one was in British racing green with sparkling wire wheels.

I’ve noticed it around and always secretly coveted it. I used to drive old Mk IIs (though not in as lovely condition as this one) and I’ve long hankered after another.

Anyway, this chap was examining the door panels on the passenger side.

A long, unbroken scratch had been scored deep into both doors, by a key or a coin or a screwdriver – who knows? The person wielding it was certainly a spanner.

“Oh, bad luck.” “Mmm. I’ve only just had it resprayed, too.” “D’you think it’ll polish out?” “Nah. Too deep. I’ll have to get both doors done again.”

He told me he’d only been in the shop for 10 minutes. “Long enough for some nasty little git to do this.” (Except he didn’t say “git”.) We looked around us. No one suspicious in sight.

Just an old lady putting shopping in the boot. There was a CCTV camera mounted on a nearby pole but it was facing the other way.

Anyway, can you remember the last time you read about someone being prosecuted for “keying”? No, me neither. I commiserated with him once more and went back to my own car.

And guess what? Big long scratch down one side. I called over to my new friend. “Me too. Look.”

He came over to inspect the damage, and said: “This is going to sound a bit weird but this actually makes me feel slightly better.”

He meant, he explained, that now he didn’t feel quite so singled out. I understood. Hey-ho.

I’ve had my car resprayed now and I suppose I’m sort of glad I had an excuse to do so: it certainly looks a lot newer and nicer; all those accumulated blemishes, the inevitable consequence of three years on the road for a hard-used family saloon, are all gone.

But I’d still like to understand what motivated the person who so pointlessly vandalised two strangers’ cars. Was it jealousy? A form of sadism?

And how should such strange people be punished, assuming they’ve been nabbed?

I’m a strong believer in making the penalty fit the crime.

I’d sentence them to a month’s unpaid labour in the nearest car wash, soaping, sponging, leathering and polishing away from dawn to dusk.

I’d make them use freezing cold water in the wintertime, too. My guess is they’d never key a car again.

Read more in Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express here.
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