One evening this week, the motion detectors in the small yard at the rear of our town house in England set off warning bleeps inside. It had just gone dark. Mrs Paine looked through the blinds. Two shaven-headed young men, aged between 18 and 20, were leering at her, bathed in the bright light of our automatic security lamps. They gave her the finger, laughed and - thank goodness - vaulted the rear fence and ran away.
She called me in Russia. I suggested she called the police. She laughed. "They won't come for days. What's the point?" That was a sad thought, but I could only agree. In modern police thinking, the guys in our yard were "customers", not us. And calling them would have reduced the small chance of their doing anything useful by giving them more pointless form-filling.
What disturbed my wife most was that, in the seconds before our visitors noticed her, they seemed to be enjoying themselves; messing about and setting off the alarms (more audible, deliberately, outside than in) without any concern. Probably they were waiting to see if anyone reacted before forcing an entry. "They were laughing," she said, "I am frightened."
She has now rejoined me in Moscow. Our apartment here is guarded by private security men, paid for - and accountable to - the residents. Russia neither has Government for the underclass, nor a police sensitised to social issues.
Since, unlike fox-hunting or speeding, burglary is not considered a serious enough crime to be worth police time in Britain, it's as common an irritation to householders as a burst pipe or a lost roof tile. Every home we ever had in Britain, humble or more upmarket, has been burgled.
What makes the incident part of "Blair's Britain" is that these men didn't care about being seen. They thought it was funny. They were frightening because they were shameless. They know that Labour is the Government for the underclass; that the police don't even pretend to try to catch them. They feel utterly safe. We don't.
We don't need more laws. We don't need new initiatives. We don't need more statistics. We don't need more police powers. We need our police off their arses and out on the streets. We need police who understand who they REALLY work for. We need the laws we have always had rigorously enforced, and all "binge legislating" (as Andrew Marr tellingly described it) of recent years ignored until public order has been restored.