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Honor System Exploited On Scottish Island That Had Been Crime-Free

The crime rate on the small Hebridean island of Canna, Scotland, skyrocketed overnight this week, when thieves looted a shop that had used the honor system. Locals say it's the first theft on the island in decades.

"The crimes — which included the theft of six woolly hats — are believed to be the first on Canna since a wooden plate was stolen in the 1960s," reports Scotland's STV.

The Canna Community Shop is next to a pier; it was left open to let fishermen get what they needed overnight. It's run by the island's community trust, which says the shop will now be shut down at night.

STV cites a spokeswoman for the community trust:

"In the four years our shop has been run on an honesty basis this is the first time this has happened and we are all gutted by it.

"The thieves cleared the shelves of sweets, chocolate bars, coffee, biscuits, batteries and more. Most upsetting for [manager] Julie was they stole six of her hand-knitted Canna wool hats which were in the shop on a sale or return basis."

Canna is the westernmost island in the Small Isles, an archipelago in the Inner Hebrides. There's no police force on the island; BBC Scotland reports that an officer is being sent from the mainland to investigate the theft.

If you can promise to keep your hands to yourself, Canna sounds like a delightful place to visit. From the National Trust of Scotland, which owns the island:

"Along with its smaller neighbor Sanday, Canna has been a site of continuous settlement for 9,000 years, with a small population of inhabitants remaining to this day. The two islands are now linked by a footbridge.

"Known as 'the garden of the Hebrides,' Canna has fertile soils, green meadows and abundant wildlife. It has been recognized as a bird sanctuary since 1938, and supports over 20,000 breeding seabirds, including puffins, razorbills and guillemots."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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