Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Crime figures and lies, damned lies!

Now here’s something that will appal you – a real-life story from my sister Ruth made more interesting because both she and her husband John were police officers, many years ago!

I’ll leave some peripheral details out but this is the gist.

Picture this; Ruth goes to church and sits in the row nearest the back of the church along with some folks she knows. A (young-ish) man comes in and those around greet him – he’s not someone they know but he’s come to worship (or so they think!); he sits in the row behind and immediately behind where Ruth is sitting.

At sometime during the service someone across in the other pews notices that he hasn’t been standing during the singing of the hymns but doesn’t think anything of it – maybe he has a bad back?

Anyway the service progresses when Ruth and the others hear the door behind them close – again no-one thinks anything of this; maybe the guy felt that the service wasn’t doing anything for him?

And then for some reason Ruth reaches for her handbag under her seat – yes, you’ve got there before me I guess! The handbag zip had been opened and her mobile phone and wallet with cash/credit cards and all had gone.

Ruth phones John, still at home – he calls the credit card companies and gets the cards stopped immediately and then together they go down to the local Police Station to report the theft, less than an hour previously; they arrive to be ‘greeted’ by one of the new ‘Community Support Officers’ (CSO) who looks, Ruth thinks, somewhat dishevelled. But ok things are never what they used to be, are they – even policemen can look scruffy these days!!

Listen to this:

Ruth - ‘We’ve come to report a theft of items from my handbag’

CSO – ‘What have you lost?’

Ruth – ‘No, my mobile phone and wallet were stolen from my handbag’

CSO – ‘Where did you lose them?’

Ruth – ‘No, I didn’t lose them; they were stolen from my handbag in church’

CSO - ‘How do you know this?’

(Me, aside, dohhhh!!!)

Ruth explains that she knew the items were in the handbag when she entered church as she distinctly remembers switching her phone off when she arrived there.

CSO – ‘But you could have lost them?’

Ruth (getting more than a little exasperated by now!) – ‘No, the items were in my bag at the start of the service but were stolen by a man sitting behind me’

Looking quizzical, the CSO produces a form – headed ‘Lost Property’- and starts to fill it in.

At this point, John (who'd been quiet up to now) pipes up; ‘You know this isn’t a lost property issue, its theft, it’s a crime situation’

CSO says something which they both think is facetious and John says ‘Look, I spent over 30 years in the Police and I KNOW what a lost property item is and I know what a crime is’

CSO (sneering) – ‘yes but your not in the police now are you!’

(Me again – wow that’s appalling and very, very rude!)

John says he wants to see a senior officer, meaning at least the station sergeant (if they still have them these days!)

CSO gets up and disappears into the office behind – he returns a while later and says the senior officer says it’s a lost property situation and the CSO is dealing with it the right way.

John stands his ground and insists on seeing the senior officer – the CSO disappears again. They wait alone at the counter for maybe 20 minutes – a WPC walks through and asks where the CSO is; John says he’s gone to get the senior officer who they are waiting for.

More time passes and no-one returns – Ruth and John lose patience and leave the Police Station somewhat disgusted with the treatment they have received as victims of crime.

John writes two letters to his MP, one to the local office and the other to the House of Commons – some months later he is still waiting for even the courtesy of an acknowledgement!

So when the politicians trumpet how the UK crime figures are falling – don’t you believe them!

They’re recording everything as ‘lost property’!!

Another sad example of Britain today!

But there’s a happy footnote to this story – a week or so after the theft, Ruth had a call from a local pub. Apparently a cleaner had come across her wallet while cleaning the ladies toilet – in addition to credit cards the wallet also contained Ruth’s membership card for the Royal College of Nursing which had a phone number on it.

The publican, (presumably knowing how inefficient the police were nowadays!) called the RCN himself and got Ruth’s phone number – he called her and she was reunited with the wallet – sadly now missing not only a relatively small quantity of cash but also more distressingly a much treasured photo of our dear Mum which Ruth thinks must have just fallen out of the wallet when they were rifling through it. The credit cards were intact but useless now as they’d been cancelled immediately after they’d disappeared but thankfully her driving licence was still there.

So there ARE nice folks about after all (the cleaner and the publican) – I guess you just have to look harder for them these days!