Sometimes it seems there's Elephants wherever I look - even on my day off!
I could not believe my eyes as I walked over Westminster Bridge yesterday, in the heart of London's political district, under the gaze of countless CCTV cameras and (your) god knows what other post-9/11 ultra-sophisticated state-run surveillance spies.
As I fought through the crowds I saw SEVEN separate groups of people huddled around Illegal Follow-the-lady, or three-card-Monte, gambling scams!
Yes, SEVEN - and not a cop to be seen... For those unfamiliar with this ancient, pernicious, illegal scam, Three-card Monte, also known as the Three-card marney, Three-card trick, Three-Way, Three-card shuffle, Menage-a-card, Triplets, Follow the lady, Les Trois Perdants (French for Three Losers), le Bonneteau, Find the lady, or Follow the Bee is a confidence trick.
The victim, or "mark", is tricked into betting a sum of money, on the assumption that they can find the money card among three face-down playing cards.
Sea shells, cups, matchboxes etc., are often used instead of cards. It is an example of a classic short con in which a "shill" (slang: one who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders) pretends to conspire with the mark to cheat the dealer.
In fact the shill is conspiring with the dealer to cheat the mark!
It is for this reason that it has been illegal in most civilized societies for centuries. For example, if the mark picks the right card, one of the shills will simply post a higher bid, which the dealer immediately accepts, saying "I only accept the highest bid."
In other words, the mark may put down £20 on the right card. A shill will then throw down £40 on top of the card, thereby winning the "right" to play that round. Of course, if the mark picks the wrong card, the dealer takes the bid and the money.
The dealer will never, ever, accept a winning bid from a mark!
This rip-off wasn't taking place up some back-alley, this was under the shadow of Big Ben, approximately 50 Metres away!
Ignoring the bristling CCTV coverage for a moment, this was happening in the city where the Metropolitan Police Service employs more than 32,500 officers together with about 14,200 police staff, 230 traffic wardens [I know, it feels more like 2.3M when you try to park!] and 4,300 Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) also supported by more than 3,600 volunteer police officers in the Metropolitan Special Constabulary (MSC) and its Employer Supported Policing (ESP) programme...
So where were they? And here's where this post gets a bit difficult - you see, from the accent, demeanour, complexion and dress of the dealers and shills, and drawing on my many decades of life-experience, they looked for all-the-world, as if they might be guests in this country.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that they were some of our new EU-cousins from Eastern Europe.
And this got The Elephant Hunter wondering... is there a new Met policy to ignore the transgressions of some, while continuing to apply the law like a sledge hammer to those (seemingly predominantly indigenous) citizens who may be a day late renewing their car tax, or might drop a cigarette butt in the street?
Or could it be that the law of trespass needs a little updating?