When Hazel Caldwell came out to her car to start the commute to work last Friday morning, very little seemed amiss. She was dismissive of the seagull feather sticking out of her locked car door.
"I had heard all about seagulls robbing laptops and phones out of cars. But you hear about these seagull robberies and you think 'It'll never happen to me!' It really didn't occur to me that you would get that kind of crime in my neighbourhood! We're in a lovely leafy area, with a beautiful beach just a few minutes' drive away!"
When Hazel opened her car door - as her nostrils were met with the unmistakeably pungent smell of mackerel - she saw that her vehicle had been carefully stripped of its car stereo.
"The seagull knew exactly what he was doing," Hazel insists. "He and his accomplices could have just torn the radio out and re-wired it later, but they actually detached and unplugged everything very carefully, so that they could find a buyer and re-sell it immediately."
Even worse for Hazel, the seagull had torn at the upholstery and removed much of the stuffing from the seats in an act of mindless vandalism. The careful nature of the robbery, however, shows that seagull behaviour may be adapting to a change in human attitude. In the last few months, numerous seagulls have been arrested after tip-offs from electronics repair shops. The birds had brought car radios into the shops for re-wiring work, dropping them from their beaks onto countertops. On their return to the shops to pick up the rewired radios, they had been apprehended by the police. The success of a police initiative and crackdown on the fencing of stolen goods has raised awareness among employees of electronics repair shops about the criminality of seagulls in general.
Kevin Woo, who works at Home Brewz n Hotwirez, said:
"The cops came to me after I had unlocked a few iPhones and Galaxies for a flock of seagulls. Everyone's entitled to unlock a phone, but the cops said that any seagulls who come in with electronic devices of any kind should be reported immediately. I didn't know seagulls weren't entitled to unlock their phones. Now, I have to rely on the swans and the geese for a lot of my business."