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Thieves Cause Uproar On Scottish Island That Was Once Crime-Free


And now a crime that has shocked a community. Over the weekend, thieves entered a shop on the remote Scottish island of Canna. Their haul - batteries, toiletries, chocolate and six hand-knitted wool hats. To learn more about the shop and understand why the break-in has caused such a stir, we called on Bill Clark. He's the local councilman who represents the island of Canna.

BILL CLARK: The shop is owned by the Island of Canna - the Community Development Trust - and it's run by volunteers, but it's left open around the clock. That's to enable sailors, fisherman, kayakers to use the facility - help themselves. They'll have a cup of tea, a cup of coffee. And if they're going to be purchasing or require groceries, they make a note of what they've taken in a book, and they leave the money in what's known as an honesty box.

BLOCK: So the honor system - you come in. It might be the middle of the night. You need...


BLOCK: ...Something to drink. You take it, and you put some money in the box.

CLARK: That's correct. It's all in trust.

BLOCK: And that trust was broken.

CLARK: That trust was broken - unbelievably broken because the last time a crime was committed in Canna was in the '60s when a wooden plate was stolen from the local church.

BLOCK: In the 1960s, somebody stole a plate from the church?

CLARK: Yeah, yeah. None of us found out who took that wooden plate.

BLOCK: Mr. Clark, how many people live on the island of Canna?

CLARK: There are 26 people on the island of Canna. At one time, in the mid-19th century, for example, there was about 250.

BLOCK: So just 26 people, and you'd have to assume it's not somebody who lives on the island.

CLARK: No, no. Absolutely not. No, no, no. Now, I understand there were - there were 17 yachts in the bay.

BLOCK: Seventeen yachts in the bay.

CLARK: And there was also a fishing boat. And the police that are appealing for anyone who had anything, saw anything to get in touch. There are no policemen on Canna, at all. But people don't close their doors at night. They don't lock the doors, rather.

BLOCK: It's just that kind of place.

CLARK: It's just that kind of place. You've got to have trust in the people you're living with.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Clark, do you figure this is the end of honesty box culture there in Scotland?

CLARK: No, no, no, no, no. No, I don't believe so. I believe that they'll carry on. This is a one-off.

BLOCK: So the tradition will live on.

CLARK: Oh, the tradition will certainly live on. Yes, yes. It wouldn't break them, not by any stretch of the imagination. No, no.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Clark, thanks for talking to us about all this.

CLARK: That's all right. You're welcome. And maybe one day, you'll visit the likes of Canna and one of the other Inner Hebrides.

BLOCK: I would love to. Bill Clark represents the Scottish island of Canna. We were talking about the theft at the local community shop which operates on the honor system. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We incorrectly refer to Bill Clark as a councilman. His title is actually councilor.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: June 18, 2015 at 12:00 AM EDT
We incorrectly refer to Bill Clark as a councilman. His title is actually councilor.