The police, wasting time on Golliwogs and chasing but not catching burglars
Sorry for sporadic blogging over and either side of the weekend but it's been quite an eventful few days. On Friday I returned to the Heart of England (also known as the Black Country) for business. Having had a thoroughly tiring week I was looking forward, after sorting out a few things during the day, to a decent night's sleep in the area I still think of as home. Just as I was about to turn in I had the misfortune of seeing this item on the venerable Midlands Today.
Apparently a storeowner in sleepy Bromyard was dragged out to his shop one evening so that police could confiscate some illegal items he was selling. No, not stolen goods. No, not drugs, even. No, not even cartoons. Cuddly animals - which just happened to be golliwogs. As Laban Tall has noted in the meantime, you have to watch the linked video from the programme to understand the full horror that the police had to tackle. The shop owner, Mr Reynolds, will be "advised about the sensitivities of displaying them" after West Mercia Police said the toys were seized under section 5 of the Public Order Act which makes it an offence to display anything which could be deemed as threatening, abusive or insulting. If that's not Clockwork Orange-esque re-education I dread to think what's the come. Whatever the ins-and-outs of the golliwog argument surely it can't be illegal to sell them, I thought. Surely the police can find better things to do than attempting social engineering through cuddly toy confiscations? Especially after so much inaction over this.
Still, mildly irritated I went to bed safe in the knowledge no politically-incorrect toys would be parading around my village that night.
Unfortunately, I only got two hours sleep.
The phone rang, waking me up.
There had been an alarm activation at one of the business's factories. Police had gone but hadn't seen anything. They were logging it as a false alarm.
Cue panic, leaping into car, grabbing of torches and keys. At least we don't manufacture golliwogs. Whilst charging hell for leather up the M5 at 2.30am I managed enough serenity to speculate at the inordinate amount of black smoke rising from farmers' fields for that time of the morning on such a cold and snowy night; regulation may sound nice from a cosy desk in Whitehall or Brussels, but doesn't it just make things more difficult and force them underground rather than really stopping them?
On arriving at the factory we walked stealthily up the side. A clang inside stopped us in our tracks as we were about to open the door. We continued to the top and saw where windows had been smashed to find a way in. Fortunately, in this modern, multicultural, compassionate and equal society we'd already realised it was best to bar them. Glass stops no man, if really determined.
Hearing no more sound we ventured in. The lights went on. I shouted. Turning, I went back to lock the door behind us. No need to give anyone an extra escape route. As I did so Paul heard a noise at the back of the factory and called to me about it. I'd heard something else. A muffled shout outside, then frantic footsteps. I rushed to the door now and flung it open. Two shadows charged past outside.
Then my brain switched off. I grabbed a metal bar from near the doorway and charged after them. Hell for leather I went down the side of the factory. "Come on, you bastards," I roared. Exactly why, don't ask me! The way they took off then, before splitting at the gates (fortunately right under the glare of a street lamp where I had a great view of their faces). Would I have been prosecuted if they'd turned around and I'd clobbered one of them at the edge of the premises? They must have been rattled. They wouldn't have been expecting us, of course, the police had already been, found it was a false alarm, not seen a giant roller shutter door was open and left. 999 was dialled immediately. Retrospectively, I couldn't quite believe I'd chased them off. The power of perceived authority, I suppose.
To be fair to the bobbies who got out to help us they wanted to do a good job. They just didn't have the manpower to talk to us and keep an eye on the streets nearby, either to spot the burglars or prevent other offences, at the same time. Half an hour later there was a job done at the school down the road. The way alarms in the area kept sporadically sounding seemed like a macabre orchestra. Such is old urban England on a Friday night. There then ensued an even more tiring night with the police and resecuring the factory. Saturday night was quite anxious as we expected them to try to come back and finish the job the next day. No Scene of Crime Officers rushed out. No desire for prints, evidence of entry or anything. They'd come out the week before and missed the attempted point of entry. This time there wasn't any effort to understand why they'd missed them again after initially responding to the alarm call.
Fortunately, we were lucky (or just blind reckless) enough to take matters just a little bit into our own hands. As a result - touch wood - they've been seen off. Sadly, this has nothing to do with the well-meaning police.
The entire incident has made me think more about our police. Many of them are good, well-intentioned boys and girls who just want to stop and solve crimes. Sadly, others are not. Even more sad, is the fact that their superiors, over-sensitive to politically-correct whims, to gollies, to comments on radio talk programmes and to trying to mould the community, tie their hands and make it even more difficult for them to do the little they could. What's needed is a more responsive system. Whereby the aims and goals of the police are more directly tied to the communities they serve, not what it is perceived, in some distant office, that those communities want. I've said it before, and it seems an easy solution, but elected heads of the police would help. It wouldn't tackle every problem or transform the force itself - but it wouldn't half help and wouldn't half help establish the public's confidence not just in law enforcement bodies, not even just the law as well, but in the value of going to the ballot box and casting your vote.