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A Disappointing Response

A couple of weeks ago some property was stolen from my car, Parked in the secluded cul-de-sac in which we live, it was not something I had expected. With our home being situated deep in the heart of a deceptively large housing estate, even 12 years of policing experience had not prevented me from being coaxed into the false sense of security that our little road provides. Away from any main roads, and with just four houses comprising the cul-de-sac, it was almost as if our location would keep us safe from any would-be-criminals, as for starters they would have to venture quite far into an estate for which there are only a couple of entrances and exits. Furthermore, I am always very security conscious and despite this illusory peace of mind always keep my car locked, the garage bolted and all doors and windows secured.

I say always.

On this occasion, my grandparents had come to stay and I can only assume that I had ventured forth into the house, laden with shopping bags or other such items whilst they got out of the car, a task that would take them some time due to their age, and subsequently forgotten to lock up once they had come into the house. The fact that these thieves had my property away (an iPod, some phone cables and a (fortunately empty) wallet) on the first and only occasion I have left my car insecure is testament to the fact that they have probably tried my door handle on many occasions before, and this time just got lucky.

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Other than the metaphorical punch in the face I felt from this discovery, I was more disturbed by the shattering awakening to the fact that my dream home in it's dream location was not as safe as I had led myself to believe. Suddenly the homeowner paradise was whipped away and those 12 years of policing experience kicked in. What seemed positively romantic before (the seclusion, the micro-community, the fact that our little road was actually hard to find unless you knew precisely where to turn) was suddenly revealed to be relatively advantageous to the opportunist thief. The seclusion was an ideal chance to conduct criminal activity with less chance of a disturbance, the small number of houses became the perfect scenario to reduce the odds of any witnesses looking out their windows.

I was annoyed with myself. It was very much a wake up call.

I won't ramble on with the whole series of events that followed, but in a nutshell the empty wallet was found discarded approximately a mile away the following day, and handed to a local military chap who contacted me using the basic service details inside. I went and saw him and he explained that a youth had approached him in the town earlier that day and said that he had found it and didn't know what to do with it as it looked important (the wallet itself bore insignia of the Royal Military Police and was designed to house a police warrant card that I luckily no longer kept in there).

Louise (who had come with me) actually knew the chap, having worked for him on a previous tour of Afghanistan and so one positive from the experience was that she got to have a catch up with him before we toddled off to the police station to report the incident. In my early career I used to be frustrated by individuals that reported crimes where there we're no solvability factors, usually along the lines of I've been away on leave for two weeks, I left my room insecure in my barrack block that I share with 90 other people, and the door to the block is always insecure too, and all of my worldly possessions have been taken.

However I reported this matter for two reasons. One, for the purposes of criminal statistics and to put our new housing estate on the map for the local police, and two because there we're (some) solvability factors.

For starters, there is a council building backing onto where we live equipped with CCTV. Its about 300 metres away as the crow flies with an expanse of land between us and it, but it is a line of enquiry that could be pursued do the cameras cover any part of the estate, including the entrances? That could produce evidence of pedestrian and vehicular activity, which may in turn be subsequently linked to other crime in the area. Door-to-door enquiries may have resulted in a single suspicious sighting, which again could have unlocked the door to further evidence gathering. They could have spoken to the chap who had the wallet handed to him, the kid that found the wallet, checked the CCTV outside of the busy shop from where the wallet was allegedly found.

Im not daft. I know that this takes a lot of work which may seem disproportionate when compared with the value of the property taken, and I knew that any incident like this would be at the very bottom of their to-do list. But as one of my friends had bike parts stolen from his she'd recently in a different part of the country, and as his local police force brought an offender to court within days against all the odds, it just goes to show that these things are worth reporting. So off we went.

There we we're met by a civilian G4S contractor. This was the first face we saw as we walked into our local police station. His face was, in that moment, the entire representation of the force that would be dealing with our complaint. Whilst the face itself was entirely adequate, the words that came out of it and the expressions it bore we're not.

Disinterested. Confused. Struggling. All words I would use to describe his performance as he recorded our details over the next three and a half minutes.

It is difficult to comment on what happened without sounding pompous and so I wish to put a disclaimer in now. I consider myself to be no more qualified than any other at life. I think I am of average intelligence, drive, fitness. But when it comes to my job I know I am good. I have surpassed all of my own career expectations and have thus far spent a number of years in the military equivalent of the CID. It is on this basis that I feel confident to deal with policing matters efficiently and to achieve results.

Like with any walk of life, it is difficult to be truly good at something without experience. Without making mistakes and achieving successes repeatedly, watching others, being taught, you simply can't expect to be as good as someone who has been through all of those experiences. Nonetheless, I was not dismayed at first to see a civilian standing at the front desk.

However, it quickly became apparent that this chap did not have any of that experience. This chap had some bare bones qualifications and had gone to work for G4S. From there I imagine he had obtained a contract to work for the police, and on commencement of his job had received some specific training such as how to input data and what kinds of information he would need to obtain from the public when a complaint is received.

Armed only with an A4 pad with writing already on the page he then used (sounds fine to the untrained eye, but this is a legal minefield in terms of material disclosure) he proceeded to write down literally only what he was told. He asked no questions other than for my mobile number and address. He obtained no details at all of the property taken, of who the wallet was handed to, where it was found, of the layout of our estate. He gave no reassurance as to what would happen next, nor did he provide a crime reference number.

In short, he was utterly useless. The detail he obtained was in no way sufficient to conduct an investigation, and it was obvious as he said Well get someone to look into it that the writing would never find it's way out of the pad he had used.

My issue here is the privatisation of the public sector. If crucial roles such as those held by policing staff are going to be given to civilians with little or no policing experience as previously described, then the level of training needs to be significantly increased. It is obvious why it's happening; it is cheaper to employ such people to sit at a desk and take home their 20k a year than it is to spend thousands and thousands of pounds training a fully fledged police officer taking home a much higher wage, and then wasting their qualifications and experience sat behind a desk instead of being out on the ground, especially where the government has cut so many numbers.

But at what cost? How many similar crimes are going unresolved, or worse without even being investigated? Theres a phrase often thrown about in the policing world, The Golden Hour. If you're going to solve a crime that has just occurred, you have one hour before it gets more difficult forensic evidence deteriorates or is lost, people escape or disappear by changing their appearance, stolen property changes hands etc. Whilst this wasnt a serious crime, and certainly not one that happened in the hour preceding my report to the chap at the desk, the same principle does apply obtaining crucial information efficiently at the earliest stage provides the foundations to build the strongest possible prosecution case you can.

I subsequently wrote a complaint to the police force and am awaiting a response, but the fact remains that it sends a very clear message to the community:

We, your police force, do not have the budget or the manpower to effectively police you, and the chances are that many of your crimes will go without detection or punishment, so fill your boots.

Posted in Law Post Date 11/26/2017


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