It was just gone ten in the morning at Big Pete and I had already been to three domestic incidents since starting at seven, locked people up at two of them; one male and one female just to ensure the balance, when call number four came in.
“Chaos, we know you are busy with prisoners, but any chance you can make a shoplifter in the first instance, mapping shows you and Pete the only unit in the area …”
Well of course we were the ‘only unit in the area’ … we were the only unit this side of the main nick at Medbury, some 15 miles away, and one of only three cars on in any case this fine Saturday morning.
The only reason we were double-crewed was not because the incidents we had already been to demanded more than a ‘one person’ response – although they did because, as is the norm, the people we had been going to were all ‘regular customers’ with plenty of warnings for violence, and especially violence towards police officers.
No, the reason we were double crewed was simply because between five of us on shift covering two towns this morning, simply there were only three working vehicles !
That being by the by, our prisoners would have to wait a bit longer to be dealt with. It wouldn’t matter so much as each of them was so steaming drunk they wouldn’t be fit for interview for many hours anyway. It was, much as we actually hate to do it, looking like a pair of handovers for lates. In one case, so drunk, possibly even nights !
What wasn’t so great was the delay that would be caused in getting to the victims and getting statements from them. It’s not ideal but it’s the reality of where we were.
Often the biggest problem we see when this happens, and it happens a lot, is that the victim suddenly has a change of heart, and decides they want nothing to do with the police, refuse to make a statement, and accuse us of all manner of things to try and get their loved one out of the slammer.
This is generally due to having had time to realise the potential repercussions of their actions rather than a genuine will for their abuser to return, but it creates a very high barrier we then have to break back down to get people onside.
Sometimes we don’t manage it but if we can still build a case, the rules are such now that the CPS should be looking to take forward victimless prosecutions to keep victims safe even if they don’t support such action.
I guess in reality this can be a difficult one. Unless the courts come down hard on the perpetrator, and let’s be realistic, that’s the exception rather than the rule – the risk is great that we could inadvertently be adding to the pressure placed on the victim to such an extent that next time, they simply won’t call for help. It’s a toughy.
Anyway, we took call number four and headed to the local superstore.
Out of the car and not even through the front doors of the shop were we before the first comment came.
“Breakfast already is it” were the words that spurted from the mouth of a fine upstanding member of the public as he emerged from the shop, fag already in his mouth with one hand flicking the lighter as the other tried to shield the emitted flame whilst simultaneously hanging on to a bottle of cheap shops own brand equivalent of Jack Daniels.
“Ohh yes” replied Pete “ you should really try their Salmon and Basil Omelette or the Pancetta Avacado, they’re to die for”
Pete really couldn’t help himself sometimes. Mind you I guess the first few dozen times you hear the negativity thrown our way at every opportunity it’s quite humourous. After that it’s just plain boring.
“Are they even things Pete ?” I asked, uninterested in rising to the original bait myself.
“You uncouth youth Chaos” Pete replied “don’t you know the finer delicacies of the most important meal of the day”
“Nope” I retorted “If I want posh brekkie, it’s Brown Sauce instead of red”
We made our way past the line of already busy checkouts as families and singletons alike paid homage to the great Gods of retail and filled their bags with numerous products that were ‘offer of the day’ but would most likely end up in the bin as something never tried nor wanted, merely purchased as the psychology of modern retail warfare had captured another victim.
As we got to the Security Office, which is really an oversized broom cupboard with a small chair that captured felons are deposited to await their fate, and a computer screen precariously balanced on top of copious amounts of paperwork and folders that share the rickety shelf upon which it resides, we were met by Sharon, Store Detective extraordinaire.
Sharon isn’t really a Store Detective. In fact the shop doesn’t employ any. What happens is that each day, one lucky member of staff is relieved of their much looked forward to duties of stacking shelves on aisle 13 and told to play Super Sleuth for the day.
It doesn’t work very well as you can imagine. The staff receive no training in how to spot Sammy Shoplifter (other names available), they receive no input on how to deal with any miscreants should they happen upon one by accident, and worst of all for us, they receive no goddam training in how to use the worlds worst ever CCTV recording system.
Our intrepid miscreant had of course, made quick his getaway before we had arrived. Only it hadn’t been so quick …
As Sherlock Sharon was about to tell us, with her words of fury echoed in almost perfect synchronisation by her Store Manager who had appeared from nowhere, as if by magic (or at lest crept through a changing room door a-la Mr Benn), our quarry had given up ‘being detained’ by the store staff after twenty minutes, told them he had “a knife in his pocket and wasn’t afraid to use it”, and quite rightly, with concern for their safety, the staff had let him go.
This had all happened a further 20ish minutes ago, so all in all it had been somewhere around forty minutes since the shop had called police to report what had happened. The store weren’t happy bunnies !
This was clearly one of those quick jobs’ Comms like to give out so much …
Having spent the next ten minutes placating the Manager whilst Sharon did her very best to do battle with the stores CCTV machinery eventually, no doubt with a lot of luck and a little bit of Harry Potter wizardry, up on the screen appeared moving images, not very high quality to be fair but moving still, of the worlds currently most wanted criminal.
What surprised Pete and I most of all is that whoever it was, it wasn’t one of our ‘regulars’ or other local ne’er do wells but, luckily for us, an outsider stands out in ChaosTown as much as someone in a stripy top carrying a swag bag.
“What has he had away with ?” I asked. “Frozen stuff definitely” said Sharon “we got some of it back, normal stuff, meat joints, they flog it all for drugs don’t they ?” she added.
“Didn’t get chance to look in his man bag though, or his jacket; I’m sure he had stuff in there as well but he was having none of letting us look and we can’t force them can we ?”
We took the basic details, enough to submit the obligatory crime report, and told Sharon we would be back later in the day to collect the CCTV footage if, by any stretch of the imagination, she could find anyone who knew how to download it.
“In the meantime” I said, “we’ll go have a look around the area just in case”.
To be fair they were not really more than words; going through the motions if you like. We knew it, Sharon knew it, and her manager knew it. By this time a good hour or more had passed since the call first came in, criminal mastermind numero uno had been gone for over 40 minutes and all we had to go on was some fairly mediocre video footage from which to work. This job had ‘filed pending’ written all over it.
As we left the store I updated the Control Room via the radio, making quite a meal of the bits relating to time delays in the vain hope some supervisor somewhere would be listening and fee inclined to think about doing something, anything, about a problem that was becoming more commonplace by the day and making the job of the frontline attending officers equally more difficult.
That bit fell, as expected, on deaf ears. The next bit, about the offender claiming to have a knife clearly didn’t however, as the radio world went crazy with supervisors and cops coming out of the woodwork from miles around, to get over to us and start hunting the now ‘prize catch’.
It mattered not any more that it was a 99.999% surety the claim had been made as no more than a means to get away before a collar was felt. The words had been said and the big ‘Manual of Everything for Police Managers Sat Behind Desks’ had been pulled off the shelf and the dust blown away. Ohh yes, the circus was coming to town …
“Let ‘em get on with it” Pete announced “we’ve got more than enough to do, and where were this lot offering to take the job when it was a simple theft” I won’t bother repeating the next few words that came from Pete’s mouth to describe his feelings as I’m not sure the spellcheck wouldn’t have a meltdown lol
He was of course right. We still had victims to see and paperwork to put together even if we didn’t get as far as interviewing the prisoners ourselves. It was going to be a long day for both of us.
I could still hear the chatter on the radio as the Duty Officer in the Control Room tried desperately to find an ARV or at least a Taser officer to head over any try to intercept our proverbial very small needle in a very big haystack.
I was driving and Pete had his eyes glued to the streets. “THERE …. OVER THERE …” he suddenly shouting, almost causing me to do an emergency stop in the middle of Castle Street.
“What … who … where ??” I said
“That’s him, I’m sure of it” called Pete, pointing furiously at some random stranger just disappearing down a side street.
Now Pete is not normally wrong, but in this case he really was pushing his luck given all the circs, but none the less, before I’d even stopped the car, Pete’s door was open and he was off running.
I knew where the street Pete had gazelled down headed for so quickly spun the panda into blue light mode to get myself to the other end asap and hopefully be there before Pete and his quarry arrived.
As expected I got to the other end of the street first, stopped the panda and headed off towards Pete who I could see running in the opposite direction just catching up with the guy he had eyeballed.
As I got to them all I could say was “Fair play to you Pete, I thought you were way off but it looks like you got your man bang to rights”
The guys clothing was a perfect match for that we had seen on the shops CCTV, especially the ‘stand out’ purple and grey jacket he was wearing. But there was one other small thing which gave his game away.
“What you talking ‘bout you ijots I ain’t dun nuffin” came the immediate line of defence from the chap we had just completed a perfect pinscher movement on.
“Well, young sir” I said to him “I would say you were taking the p*** coming onto our patch and stealing from our shops but in your case, either you have the worst case of the trots I’ve ever seen or that’s a whole pile of Ben and Jerry’s finest running down your trouser legs”
“Yeah” said Pete “a proper case of Taking the Phish”
“You’re nicked !”