Friday, October 16, 2015

Strange British police priorities

The other day, my daughter's phone went missing on a crowded bus home from school.  She was convinced it had been stolen from her bag — so I called the local police, filed a report, then rang my insurance to place a claim.

I thought nothing more of it until, just before 10pm the following evening, the landline rang.  It was a woman from the Met: they wanted to interview my 12-year-old about the alleged theft of her mobile phone.   I was told it was standard policy to interview all victims of mobile phone theft in cases involving minors.

Two days later, a constable turned up to interrogate my daughter. He spent half an hour asking questions and taking notes, before concluding her testimony was not convincing enough to be certain a crime had been committed.  He would amend the report accordingly, and let us have the new paperwork in due course.

Aside from being rather unsettling for a young girl, it struck me as a monumental waste of effort.  Surely that officer's time would have been better spent doing some actual policing rather than on a bureaucratic box-ticking exercise?

I felt this even more strongly when, a few days later, I was woken around 3.30am by the sound of our alarm going off.

The system was recently installed after my husband took on his new role as Justice Secretary.  He was away, and as the children were sleeping with me (as they always do when he's not around), I locked the bedroom door and rang the 101 police helpline (not being a life-or-death emergency I thought better of calling 999).

After listening to a recorded message from Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, I was put through and explained my predicament.

'Is there any sign of a break-in?' asked the female operator. I explained that I couldn't see — because I was locked in my bedroom and didn't fancy going downstairs on my own to find out.

This was a problem. Unless there were signs of a break-in, she said, the police wouldn't come out.

I can't really remember what I said, but I recall expressing surprise that a lone woman with two children reporting a potential break-in would not merit at least a quick drive-by from a local patrol car.

She said she'd put in a call to the Met Police to double check, but came back and confirmed: they would not attend unless there was definite evidence of a break-in.

In fairness to the 101 lady and the constable who came about the phone, they were very nice.

But they seem depressing examples of how so many of the decisions the police make are based on centralised, computer- generated, tick-box protocol rather than common sense.

The most egregious case was the scheme in Leicestershire where they would investigate burglaries only at even-numbered homes.

What on earth is going on? How can it be that the police have the time to make house calls to interview 12-year-olds about something as trivial as a missing mobile phone, but won't attend someone genuinely concerned for her own safety?

Even with the best will in the world, I can't help feeling that instinct and intelligence seem to have deserted the Force in favour of a kind of policing by numbers that leaves people like me — law-abiding citizens who have always had respect for the police — utterly baffled.

As for the alarm, it was all fine on the night — although, in the cold light of day, the garage door looked as though someone had been having a go at it.

One thing's for sure, though: if it happens again, the police will be the last people I call.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today. Now hosted on Wordpress.  If you cannot access it, go to the MIRROR SITE, where  posts  appear as well as on  the primary site.  I have reposted  the archives (past posts) for Wicked Thoughts  HERE or HERE or here

No comments: