Saturday evening, 6.00pm. Half night shift out at Littleville, six miles from Bigtown, centre of all the action. I’d only been on duty ten minutes and in comes the first Grade 1 job of the day; “I’ve been wobbed, bought an iPhone and it’s been nicked”. Yes, the call-taker really did type ‘wobbed’ on the CAD message – I started having visions that Johnathan Ross had called a job in.
Conjuring up images of some poor innocent member of the Bigtown/Littleville community being savagely robbed in the street at knifepoint (it does happen …. occasionally), the wheels of justice and fair play leapt into action (that’s me by the way, I’m the only one here). I rushed out of the nick, into the high speed emergency response vehicle; okay a 1.7 diesel Astra; lights flashing and sirens whoo whoo’ing, like a knight in shining armour, on my way to save this poor upstanding local resident who had been befallen by a wicked and sinister crime.
However, when I arrived at the scene of this dastardly act, did I find a dishevelled and distraught fine member of Littleville’s population ? a fair damsel in distress ? … well no, actually I was met with the sight of none other than my old adversary Wayne, of 83 Primrose Gardens fame; one of Bigtown’s more regular ‘customers’ and leading ‘service user’ of our fine constabulary. “Control from PC Chaos, with the caller now, slow anyone else down please” I called up on my radio. “I would” came the reply from the controller “if we had had any backup to send you Chaos”. Why I seemed surprised at that response I do not know.
“What you doing over here Wayne, you’re a bit away from home” I asked. “Came to buy a phone didn’t I Mr Chaos” replied Wayne, instinctively putting himself on the defensive, which is an odd thing for a victim of serious crime to do me thinks.
“Tell me what’s happened then Wayne” I try and feign a sympathetic and empathetic caring type voice as per all my training and force policy, although already I’m beginning to think that all is not going to be entirely as it seems.
“Well Mr Chaos” begins Wayne “I saw this phone for sale on Facebook”. My heart sank; inside I begin to groan. Facebook has evolved in policing terms to be a word used in the description of the biggest forthcoming pile of poo you could ever imagine. It’s right up there with BBM (Blackberry Messenger). And Wayne, bless him, was not about to disappoint.
“So I thought I’d get it for Bonnie, as a present like. So I emailed the geezer selling it and arranged to meet him here. I gave him a hundred and fifty quid for it and then he rode off and I put the phone on and it wouldn’t work”.
“OK Wayne, let’s just backtrack a bit here. Have you been robbed” I enquired “Yes Mr Chaos, the geezer robbed me, he took me money and the phone’s knackered”. “Yes Wayne, but did he come up to you and threaten you or anything ?” I asked. “No”.
Having now established this wasn’t a robbery, although I wasn’t planning to go into the finer points of law and crime definitions with Wayne at this point – he couldn’t spell robbery (or in fact wobbawee) never mind know what one really was, I quickly updated the control room via my radio, just in case they’d managed to magic up the extra officers, police dog and forensic team which force policy says they must send immediately to a robbery incident. Would you be surprised to hear they hadn’t ??
From the conversation that then ensured I established the following. Wayne had been on Facebook, and looking on one of those pages someone has set up called ‘Bigtown Bargains’ or whatever – there will be one for your town, trust me, take a look if you must. They are a lovely, fairly anonymous online place where you can advertise just about anything for sale and someone will, yes they will, contact you and agree to buy it, normally no questions asked. Along with eBay, Facebook bargain pages have become one of the leading lines of enquiry for pro-active bobbies trying to locate stolen gear.
On this site, Wayne had discovered someone selling an iPhone 4S they ‘no longer wanted’ and were prepared to sell for the bargain price of £150. Now it doesn’t take much thinking to work out that this was probably no going to be 100% legit and I did point this out to Wayne who just stared blankly at me as if I’d just told him intelligent life had been found on Jupiter (it could happen !!). To emphasise my point, I brought into action that leading piece of non force issue investigative kit that most front line officers now employ to make instant enquiries and assist their investigations – my own iPhone. A quick search established that the most basic iPhone 4S sim free currently retails somewhere around the £500 mark. I showed Wayne this on my phones screen.
“Yeah but” he says “They’re brand new, this one was second hand, and he didn’t have the box or charger that’s why it was so cheap. He didn’t like it a brought a new phone”. With my head by now buried so deeply in my hands I could feel my fingertips emerging through my ears, I asked Wayne to continue. It seemed he had replied to the posting on Facebook and had a message back telling him to meet the bloke selling it at a petrol station here in Littleville at 5pm with the cash – and so he had.
A guy in a hoody had ridden up to Wayne on a pushbike, shown him the phone and Wayne had handed over the reddies, happy as a bunny, thinking he was now going to be in Bonnie’s good books, The chap had then ridden away with Wayne’s money, Wayne had switched the phone on and surprise, surprise, discovered it would not work – it had already been blocked as a stolen handset by Apple or the mobile network.
“And what did this mystery chap look like” I asked, in the hope that if at least I could circulate a decent description the officers that didn’t exist that were coming to help me might (if they were there) have been able to search the area in case to dastardly offender was still around. “Dunno” said Wayne “he had a hoody up”. “Anything else you can remember about him Wayne ?”. “No”. “What about the bike ?”. “Dunno it was a mountain bike that’s all I can remember”.
And then I asked the crushing question. “So where’s the phone now then Wayne, I’ll need that as evidence, it might still have his fingerprints or DNA on it”. “I chucked it” said Wayne “in the canal”.
Suddenly, my already low levels of belief for Wayne’s story dropped a few more notches. “Wayne, let me get this right. You’re telling me that you were stood here, by this garage, a bloke who you can’t describe comes up to you on a bike, handed you a five hundred quid phone with no box or charger, you’ve given him a hundred and fifty for it, he’s ridden off, you’ve found out it’s nicked, walked best part of a mile to the canal, chucked it in then walked back here to ring us ?”
“Yes Mr Chaos, that’s exactly what happened” Wayne replied, in his best attempt at a convincing tone of voice.
“One more thing Wayne, where did you get a hundred and fifty quid from ?”. “Me dole money innit” he said, and I’m gonna need a crime number now so I can tell ‘em I was robbed and they’ll replace me money”.
BINGO. Now we’re in the ball park ! The nail has been hit firmly on the head ! “No Wayne, that’s not going to happen, cos none of this has happened. You might be getting locked up in a minute for wasting police time, but you ain’t getting no crime number”.
However, working on the principle that I was the only bobby in town, that nicking Wayne for this would entail several hours of paperwork, then several more on the phone to out-of-hours CPS for most likely a ‘No Further Action, not in the public interest’ decision, and that there were many more people in this town would would more than likely need my undivided attention as the evening wore on I explained to Wayne, ‘in words that he would understand’ that he had best leave Littleville immediately if not before, and not to venture outside of his flat for the rest of the evening. Ohh and not to be rowing with Bonnie about the money when he got home or else he would be in bother.
Having by now prevented Littleville’s violent crime figures having been increased, I updated the control room by radio and then set out to enjoy the rest of my Saturday evening, before the drunken tomfoolery began. At about 11.30pm I popped back into Littleville nick to ‘use the facilities’ and make a quick brew. I somehow had this strange feeling that all would not remain calm for very much longer. Whilst there, I chucked the station hamster a couple of nibbles, he went for a run on his little wheel and so, the ancient, creaking PC slowly wound itself into life and I could check for outstanding jobs that needed dealing with.
The shock was instant. Or maybe surprise is the better word. Or maybe I shouldn’t really have been surprised at all. I had cleared the job with ‘Wayne the not so victim’ at about 5.50pm. By 6.13pm I had been sent an email by our Crime Review desk. It read:
PC Chaos, with reference to CAD report 761, a report of a robbery. I have reviewed the update placed onto the electronic incident report by yourself and ask you to note the following comments and action accordingly:
Have you established beyond all reasonable doubt that the crime reported to the police has not occurred as outlined by the informant/victim. I must remind you that National Crime Recording Standards require that unless there in compounding evidence to the contrary, and the victim states a crime has taken place, then we must record it to comply with all relevant Home Office directives.
If, on review of the facts as they have been presented to yourself, you have established that indeed no recordable offence has occurred, then you are required to submit a Crime Report for the offence as initially described, and then complete form NCR1(rev3) which must be countersigned by an officer of Inspector rank or above, then faxed to the Crime Review Desk to request formally that the incident be ‘No-Crimed’ in accordance with current force policy.
These actions are required to be completed before the end of your tour of duty.
Two immediate thoughts sprang to my mind at this point. Well, I fib; actually there were three, but it’s probably best I don’t outline the first one on here. The other two thoughts were:
1. How is it, on a Saturday evening, that we can’t afford to put officers on the streets as we simply haven’t the money; that I am on duty on my own, with a population of approximately 10,000, nine pubs and a nightclub, but that we have no difficulty paying for support staff to be sat in a nice warm office at our Headquarters, pawing over every job the few of us out there go to, either in the hope of catching us out, or otherwise analysing every move we make, or needlessly generating more and more paperwork to keep us away from the streets we are trying to keep safe ? and
2. As this mess was now going to take me a good couple of hours to sort, can I now arrest our Crime Review Desk for wasting police time ???
And just to add to the Wobbawee woes, Wayne hadn’t managed to heed my advice about not rowing with Bobbie when he got home; within an hour of being despatched back to Bigtown by me, he’d got into a row with Bobbie over spending his dole money (on booze and drugs !!!), another crew had been called out and young Wayne had kicked off at them. He was now spending the night as a guest in our fully en-suite ‘Hotel de Clink’.