Have you noticed how things always seen to happen just when you least want them to ?
Last Tuesday night was a prime example. Even by Tuesday night standards it had been a non-event. We’d been on duty since 10pm and apart from a couple of drunken domestic arguments at the start of the shift not a single job had been called through from Joe Public asking for our help or assistance.
We were short on numbers yet again; two of the shift had had their duties changed for a court case so I was Billy No Mates again; not that I really minded – sometimes I worked better on my own, a few of the others got fed up of my aimless meanderings round the back lanes and into the middle of nowhere, chasing a few of our elusive rural rascals, who made it their mission to create merry havoc around the outer lying villages and farms protected by the Chaos Constabulary. I actually think some of our guys are such townies that they are afraid of the green stuff !
I’d done my best to make a bit of noise trundling up and down a few farm drives – not enough to be a nuisance, but loud enough so that if anyone was awake they would stick their nose up against some window glass or another, see that the old bill were checking their land out and go back to bed much the happier for it.
I’ve never really had the heart to tell these folk that a big shiny, noisy diesel car with bright yellow and blue stickers all over it actually does very little to actually stop crime. I mean it may deter it a bit, and push the criminality somewhere else; but for the main part it just tells the little tea-leaves where we are and, more importantly from their point of view, when we’ve gone again.
We would for the most part be far more effective at night if we put out a couple of plain old nondescript petrol cars that either didn’t stick out or even better, looked a bit dodgy themselves. That way we’d stand a far better chance of creeping up unawares and catching the thieves at their little games but we can’t be doing with all this common sense thinking at ground level can we ??
So anyway, the night had passed; I’d covered over 100 miles by three in the morning and come up with nothing but a ticket for using a mobile phone – I mean come on please …. if it’s pitch black out there and you insist on driving along with something stuck to the side of your head flashing like the Blackpool Illuminations don’t be surprised if me or one of my colleagues stops you for a little chat !
My hastily made tuna sandwich had been sat keeping me company for most the night on the passenger seat, looking more and more decidingly unappetising as the evening wore on, even more so after I’d squished it chucking my traffic pad on top of it as I jumped back in the car having dished out my sole penalty notice of the night – I suppose some would call that karma; I just call it typical !
About 4.30am I found myself tucked in a little layby with a clear view of the bypass road back to Medbury in the hope that something of interest would come and find me, or at least drive past with flashing lights on saying ‘stop me, stop me’. As it was, apart from articulated lorries laden with goods none of us really need by Mrs Chaos will have purchased lock, stock and barrel by the morning, not a soul came past until Happy Harry the Milkman.
Happy Harry is so called because he is indeed so ….. bloody miserable. All he ever does is complain about having to get up so early in the morning day in, day out, and drive round the same streets every time with no change. It was a concept of complaint somewhat lost on me given his choice of occupation, but Harry was always good for a bit of banter, and more than once, he’d actually been of great use to us, spotting something or other out of place.
Never underestimate the power of a milkie or postman to notice the unusual – they tend to do the same route every day so something different stands out straight away to them. I reckon they’ve saved a few lives along the way by calling us having discovered some old dear or another hasn’t took the previous days papers or milk in, or helped us bag a burglar or two when they’ve seen a couple of strangers wandering round one of the estates.
“Morning Happy” I said to Ian as he pulled up alongside me (yes, his name wasn’t even Harry either !!), “Nowt much happening round here tonight then”
“No” replied Ian “Not seen a soul meself other than the poor guys trying to put the new cashpoint in down the Co-op, right game they’re having with it, you should see ‘em, having to use one of them mini diggers and everything”
“What d’ya mean” I asked “was down there less than half hour ago there was no workmen there then”. To Ian’s mind it seemed perfectly normal that workmen would be banging and clattering about with a mini JCB and a cashpoint machine built into the side of a supermarket in the middle of the night. To me it sounded dodgy as hell !!!
Before Ian had chance to respond I shouted “Got to go” and I was off like a shot. Calling up on the radio for anyone else nearby to make the store as well only reminded me that there wasn’t actually anyone free in quite a wide area – the only other car on patch tonight was tied up sorting out the mess of some bloke who’d spent most the night keeping his neighbours awake playing Prince Charming by Adam and the Ants over and over again at full pelt.
And when the bloke next door had gone round to tell him to turn it down the obligatory argument had ensued, with said noisy swine ringing us to complain his ‘gainfully employed, trying to sleep because unlike you he’s got work in the morning and the kids actually go to school’ neighbour had, at the end of his tether threatened to ‘punch his lights out’.
In hindsight, my first inkling that something was amiss should have come as I passed the rather new, shiny, high end Audi parked at the junction of Crown Street with someone sat in it. I was so completely focused on getting down to the Co-op as quick as possible, combined with ‘what the heck am I going to do if chaos breaks out, god knows where any back up is’ that the thought this might be a lookout didn’t even cross my mind.
But then, i was only half way down Market Road when another large , black motor squealed off the car park entrance to the Co-op, went full speed off down the street away from me and was gone in a flash. The chances of me getting anywhere near it in a 1.7 litre diesel tractor with over 100k on the clock were so remote as not to be worth thinking about. By the time I got to the junction at the bottom where I’d seen it turn right, there was nothing; not even a hint of which way it could have gone then.
As I turned the panda round and headed back towards the store, the Audi I had seen a few moments earlier flew past me as well; but this time there was more than one on board. I managed to get to reg number of that one which soon turned out to belong to a similar-ish car from Wigan and a quick visit to that keepers address by the local force soon found the real car on the driveway, with both plates missing.
Arriving at the store was like turning up at a bomb site. There was a hole in the side of the store building the size of a small country; all around lay bricks, masonry, and much other debris which up until a short while ago formed an integral part of the structure of the building. In fairness though the cashpoint machine, which, bless it, was still standing; locked down to the ground albeit a little battered and crooked now,had faired well considering a small JCB type machine had driven right at it numerous times.
The digger had been abandoned in situ, and nearby was an old white van, so obviously the vehicle they intended to use to cart the machine off in if they could have finally released it from it’s concrete grip. The van and digger too were both nicked unsurprisingly, but from opposite ends of the country, so it just shows how connected criminal gangs are, and how easily the move and pass things around between themselves.
It was one of those jobs where there really was little that I could do. It was a proper organised gang job and I’m pretty sure they’d been lurking round for a bit in the shadows, probably even watching what I’d been doing going round and round the town and waiting for me to clear off somewhere else.
They’d probably also noticed there was no other police units around other than me, and would no doubt have not considered me a major problem to deal with should our paths have crossed – but that’s how it is sometimes; it seems to come to a shock to some, but your average local bobby wasn’t born on Krypton, and we do have a habit of bleeding just the same as anyone else. There’s been many a case very similar to the position I’d just found myself in, and it was easily luck as much as judgement that this one hadn’t gone wrong as well.
All that was left for me to do now was sit tight and wait ….. wait until the morning until the early shift started and someone else could come out and wait some more …. until Scenes of Crime came on duty, could attend and work their magic.
At least I’d have gone before the staff or more importantly inquisitive Joe Public roused from their slumber and started the outpouring of odd questions and even odder theories about ‘Mad Jack from Meadow Estate’ or ‘Druggie Dan’ being behind the job. Local miscreants as both may be, they are little fish in a very big pond and I doubt either of them would know what a cashpoint machine did, never mind shake up enough brain cells between them to work out how to have a go at tying to steal one !
I never know how they do it, but from the dust, debris and demolition around them, and from the vehicles left behind, the superstars of Bigtown Forensics managed to strike an ID for one of the offenders; a well known member of a gang from out of our area who was eventually picked up after another supermarket smash and dash elsewhere in the country.
Funny thing was, as I guarded the crime scene, a chap came out of one of the flats above a row of shops nearby saying “Something happened mate?, heard a load of banging and crashing earlier – woke me up but didn’t think anything of it.” People ! ….
“No sir” I answered jokingly “bit of a problem with moles that’s all”. Oddly, the chap appeared satisfied with this response and toddled off back to bed.