John Hooper in Rome from The Sydney Morning Herald
Officer called to deal with immigrant accused of stealing pasta, milk, nappies and baby food takes pity on hard-up suspect
The financial crisis in Europe may have brought out the worst in certain bankers, but it seems to be bringing out the best in Italy’s police.
On Tuesday, and for the second time in less than a month, officers called to deal with a shoplifter were reported to have taken pity on the alleged thief and paid for the goods out of their own pockets.
The latest case arose when staff at a supermarket on the outskirts of Siena, in Tuscany, alerted police to a suspected robbery. The officers found a 27-year-old Egyptian immigrant and his 19-year-old brother who had apparently failed to pay for goods that had been removed from the shop.
The police established that the older of the two was unemployed and had a wife and two children. Along with some pasta, he and his brother were found to have taken only milk, nappies and baby food. At this point, according to Corriere Fiorentino, the officers opened their wallets and paid the bill.
A similar gesture prompted a round of applause from shoppers at a supermarket in Milan after a 76-year-old pensioner, identified only as Angela, was found to have passed through the checkout without paying for a box of Tic Tac sweets worth EUR 0.78.
Sergeant Arturo Scungio said he and his patrol partner had caught up with the suspect near the shop.
“She was trembling like a leaf and was clearly frightened by the uniform. From the way she was dressed, I realised she was not well off, that she was one of those who have difficulty making it to the end of the month. I told her what the law was and then I asked her how much pension she received.”
The old lady said that she was on EUR320 a month, adding: “I’ve always paid my taxes.” Scugnio said that by the time they returned to the supermarket checkout, she was in tears.
The manager said he did not intend to press charges. “I opened my wallet and paid the 78 cents owed for the Tic Tacs,” Scugnio said.