We take a different look at Home Alone and discover how the circumstances of the film would have been dealt with in modern-day Scotland by Police Scotland.
Home Alone is such an iconic feel-good Christmas film. It spawned four sequels and propelled Macaulay Culkin to household name status.
Released in 1990, Culkin portrays Kevin McAllister, a young child (accidently) left at home from a festive family trip to Paris. To make matters worse, his house is targeted by a housebreaking duo, leading young Kevin to turn into a protective vigilante.
As much as we love the film, there’s something that’s always been of bother. That, of course, is the lacklustre performance of the police in the film and the lack of security in place at the home.
Yes, it’s a fictional storyline and in no way supposed to be realistic…but humour us for a few minutes.
We thought it’d be interesting to discover how the events of the film would have played out in modern-day Scotland with Police Scotland in operation.
The night before the McAllister’s Christmas vacation, Kevin’s extended family gather at their suburban Illinois home, with troublesome Kevin being sent to bed early after spilling milk and (unfairly in our eyes) being branded a wee nuisance.
Home Alone, 20th Century Fox.
Overnight there’s a temporary power cut. This resets the alarms and results in the McAllister family sleeping in. For fear of missing their flight, a mad panic ensues and Kevin is accidently left behind. The McAllisters race through the airport and only just make their flight. In 1990 it was alot easier to get through security quickly and onto a plane without as many checks. Changed days indeed.
One of the most frustrating things for Kevin’s mother Kate, on the wrong side of the Atlantic and full of panic, is the police incompetence in finding her son.
Upon landing in Paris, she naturally calls her local (and entirely fictional we must add) Illinois police office for help. Described as ‘hyper’ by the call handlers, she is passed back and forth with the Family Crisis Centre. She gets through to Officer Balzak, who reads a list of textbook questions whilst eating a donut (don’t you just love a policing stereotype…). To say him and his colleagues are unhelpful would be a massive understatement, but they do eventually send a cop to the McAllister household.
Appearing impatient from the off, the officer turns up and knocks on the door. Finding no one at home, he gives up and leaves the scene without a care in the world.
“There’s no one here. Tell her to count her kids again” states the dismissive officer.
Never mind the fact there’s a potentially missing child whom the officer has no idea of their well-being or safety, he couldn’t care less. He simply shrugs his shoulders and does nothing more.
Its 27 years since the first Home Alone film was released, but how would Police Scotland respond to Kate McAllister’s call from Paris to say her son had been left at home?
We spoke to Chief Inspector Alan Gray from Contact, Command & Control Division based in Govan about the Police Scotland response.
The call would be treated as a PW-25 Missing Person at Priority 2, with a response being despatched within 15 minutes. With the young age of Kevin being considered, it could easily be upgraded to a Priority 1, whereby response would be despatched within 5 minutes.
Chief Inspector Alan Gray from Contact, Command & Control Division
In Home Alone, Kevin is scared of the police and hides underneath his parent’s bed when an officer arrives at the property. This would be a familiar story for many a youngster and therefore our officers would be keen to present themselves as less authoritarian and non-threatening. If the child isn’t likely to respond to a police officer shouting, knocking on the door or shouting through the letter-box, then a friendly neighbour can be important to putting the kid at ease.
As we’ve mentioned, the officer in Home Alone lazily gives up after there is no answer and we don’t see the police again until the end of the film. Fortunately, in Scotland, this would not be the end of our involvement. If there was no answer it would be time for the next action.
As Kevin would have been treated as a high risk missing person, our officers would try and gain entry to the property, albeit with the permission of Kate McAllister.
But firstly, carrying out door to door enquiries, we’d establish if the McAllisters had left a spare key with a neighbour.
As we’ve established earlier, many of the neighbours are on holiday at this time of year so the chance of success with this may be limited. Old Man Marley, the elder gentleman who lurks around the neighbourhood with his beloved shovel, would be a port of call, but considering the way the McAllister children talk about him as a serial killer, it’s unlikely the family have a good pre-existing relationship with him. The angry stare he gives Buzz, Kevin, and Jeff McAllister at the beginning of the film confirms this and it’s doubtful he’d be trusted with a spare key.
If there was a housebreaking threat known to a particular part of Scotland, local safer communities would work with the local ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ to ensure residents were aware of the threat in the area. By making the community aware of the prospect of crime, they can then take precautionary measures to keep their properties safe.
Sergeant John Graham, National Safer Communities
In failing to get a key, the door would then be opened by a joiner or by officers using a rammit device, but first we’d let the young occupant know that we’re coming into the house and to not feel threatened.
Once in the house, a thorough house search would be carried out. Our officers would use their communication skills to ensure Kevin doesn’t feel under threat. This would (hopefully) ensure the same traps left for the ‘Wet Bandits’ aren’t left for our officers!
8 year olds are small and can hide in imaginative locations. Our officers would be searching sheds, garages, outbuildings and every corner of every floor.
In the case of Kevin as per the film, our officers would find him under the bed in the master bedroom. If he was not found, however, we’d widen the search to regular places he’d be likely to visit. And if he wasn’t found thereafter, the local Division would create an investigation team and appoint a Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) to oversee the search.
In the case of Kevin McAllister, as he’s in the house the whole time, we’re confident we’d have eventually found him. There’d have been constant communication with his mother and, after being traced, we’d ensure he’d be looked after, be it by family or family friends, until the McAllisters returned from their failed festive trip.
The McAllister family completely forget about Kevin and only realise he is missing during their transatlantic long-haul flight to Paris. In this instance, it would be appreciated as a one-off mistake but there’s still a protocol to be followed in this event.
If parents did knowingly leave their 8-year-old child to fend for themselves then they’d be committing an offence under the Children and Young Persons Act. It would be doubtful that this was the case here right enough.
Whilst the McAllisters would admit their error, a report would still be submitted to Social Work in the event that this was merely an example of widespread neglect of Kevin. Who knows, maybe the events that led to Home Alone 2 and Kevin being lost in New York could have been avoided thereafter?!
As anarchy ensues and several children run wild around the McAllister home the night before their Parisian vacation, a golden-toothed ‘police officer’ stands at the entrance of the McAllister household. Whilst he is routinely ignored (even the Pizza delivery boy is given more attention), the ‘officer’ learns that the house will soon be empty and ripe for housebreaking.
The ‘officer’ turns out to be Harry, one half of the ‘Wet Bandit’ burglars who have been targeting vacant houses in the area. It’s common knowledge that many houses on the street will be unattended during the Festive Season and Harry and Marv have already taken advantage.
Burglars are on the look out for housebreaking opportunities this Christmas.
Common knowledge to everyone but the McAllisters that is.
From the opening scene they have a very lax attitude to letting people into their house and, with an unlocked door, a man impersonating an officer is able to just waltz in unopposed.
‘We have automatic timers on our lights, locks on our doors…that’s about all we can do these days right!?’, concedes Peter McAllister to the ‘officer’, before being lured into the kitchen by the smell of pizza.
When Kevin wakes up the morning after, he arrives downstairs to investigate the whereabouts of his family. He opens an unlocked front door and peeks round the side of the house to find the garage wide door open with two cars exposed.
It's clear home security is not a high concern for the McAllisters. They’ve made it incredibly easy for any potential burglar to target their house, and the ‘Wet Bandits’ won’t believe their luck (until the torturing Kevin puts them through…).
Despite this, the police have hardly covered themselves in glory here either. Several houses have already been targeted yet the police presence and messaging is non-existent.
We spoke to Sergeant John Graham from National Safer Communities, based in Fettes in Edinburgh, about how Police Scotland would deal with a housebreaking threat similar to that of the film.
Local teams would focus messaging through social media and the local press to ensure a local awareness of the issue.
In an area where there is a threat, be it the ‘Wet Bandits’, ‘Dreich Bandits’ or other, our officers would be making their presence felt with high profile patrols in vehicles and community officers on foot at relevant times. This would reassure local residents and also help prevent criminals operating in the area. Plain clothes officers would also be in operation to catch out potential housebreakers.
Under the direction of the Divisional Acquisitive Crime Detective Inspector, information would be gathered from analysts, potential culprits identified and surveillance carried out. Our analysts would identify a number of issues around the timings of potential housebreakings including where is being targeted, what tactics the criminals carry out, who is likely to be carrying these tactics out and what it is they are looking to steal.
Harry and Marv drive around in a pale blue 1986 Dodge Ram van that says Oh-Kay Plumbing and Heating on the side. Had it been used in prior housebreakings there’s a good chance it would have been spotted on CCTV. Police Scotland would therefore have targeted the van and traced it.
Had Home Alone taken place in Scotland, Kevin’s family would have been made aware of the threat of burglars and taken the issue of home security a lot more seriously. Instead they leave front doors/garages open and letting strangers into their house willy-nilly.
The ‘Wet Bandits’, who had already targeted houses in the area, would have already been identified by our analysts before they could target the McAllister household. With a higher police presence in the area, they would have been mad to carry out their operation.
Likely to be away from your house for a period of time? PC Stevie McGill from Edinburgh shows you how you can secure your home.
If you’re going on holiday over Christmas there’s some important tips to follow.
Go on holiday safe in the knowledge that you’ve taken some sensible steps to make sure your house doesn’t appear unattended while you’re away.
- Get to know your neighbours – if you’re on good terms with neighbours you trust then they might keep an eye on your home, draw curtains and remove mail from behind the door.
- Consider using Royal Mail’s ‘Keepsafe’ service – they will keep your mail for up to 66 days.
- Make sure you cancel any regular deliveries such as milk or newspapers.
- Use timers on lights and if you have an alarm then make sure it’s set.
- Don’t broadcast on social networking that you’re going on holiday – criminals can search for this kind of information to identify empty houses.
- Dial 101 and let the police know you’ll be away so that local officers are aware.
For more information on home security visit the ‘Secure Your Home’ page on our website.