It has been revealed following an investigation and Freedom of Information request by the Telegraph newspaper that an amazing number of crimes are committed each year … inside the confines of police stations. The most amazing amongst many being the disappearance of £113,000, yes you did read that right, one hundred and thirteen thousand pounds … in cash … from an apparently ‘secure’ storage facility at Warwickshire Police’s Leek Wootton site.
The cash had been seized in 2009 under the Proceeds of Crime Act but ‘disappeared’ sometime around September 2011. How this has happened, and where the money might have gone remains a complete mystery. Being stored on an allegedly secure site, Warwickshire Police say they suspected a police officer was responsible and conducted a ‘secret investigation’ into the theft but after six months they have developed no leads and decided to go public to appeal for information.
Clearly the property management system in Warks has some rather large holes in it the size of a small continent – I remember when one of our team at Bigtown bagged up a £10 a dear old lady handed in at the Front Desk and put that into the nightsafe which is similar to those you see outside banks where you open a tray, put your item in and close again, which allows the item, in this case a £10 note in a plastic sealed bag, to fall into the safe to be dealt with during normal working hours.
We all came in to a late shift the following day to find the Complaints & Discipline Department were waiting for us as we went to briefing; the guy who dealt with the £10 was taken aside and the rest of us were grilled in the briefing room. It appeared that the £10 was not in the safe when the Property Office staff emptied the safe that morning. It was pointed out by more than one of us that one would be hardly likely to go to the bother of booking the said cash into the Property recording system on the computer if you were going to half-inch it which apparently only made the C&D bods even more suspicious of us all. I think we all had visions of the guy they took away by now being tied to the rack, whipped and beaten until he confessed to a mortal crime.
It hadn’t occurred to anyone to check the nightsafe’s drop tray system until the second (and part-time) property officer came in at midday. When being told what all the panic was about she calmly walked over to the safe, opened the door, stuck her arm in and up, wiggled it about on the drop tray and pulled out the elusive bag. “Happens all the time” she said “I’m fed up of writing memo’s saying the drop tray is faulty, no ones bothered to fix it”. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that the officer deemed an evil master criminal by the higher echelons of police society is still awaiting his apology.
The point being, if our station can make so much fuss over £10 that couldn’t be located for a couple of hours, how on earth did they not miss £113,000 …. and what was it doing in a police station all that time anyway; surely it should have been safely banked somewhere ???
Although this is clearly the ‘biggy’ the Freedom of Information Request also revealed an astounding amount of equipment nicked from nicks around the country; Lancashire and Gwent have each had a police car stolen in the past year; Surrey police has had four police cars stolen since 2000; The Metropolitan Police has had five police cars stolen since 2008.
Other forces have reported people stealing handcuffs, police radios, laptops and even a knuckleduster from inside police stations. In Northamptonshire a man was arrested after being found wearing a police uniform he had stolen from a local police station.
To say all of these matters are highly embarrassing has to be the understatement of the year, and certainly they won’t help install confidence with the general public in the police’s ability to crack crime if we can’t stop it happening on our own doorstep. Although no doubt, the blame will land at the ground floor as it usually does, there have to be people further up the line who need to take responsibility for these matters and sort it out.