“Chaos” came the call over the radio almost as soon as I booked myself on duty this morning … I’m sure someone in our Control Room has hidden a spy camera just inside the back door of our nick so that they know the minute we walk through the door, “Chaos, can you pick up a shoplifting job from yesterday ? … Boots down on Market Street had a load of items taken yesterday .. over three hundred pounds worth they say. Apparently local officers will know the guy responsible” ….
Now I don’t know about other police stations and forces, but generally speaking, when they try and give you a job at five past seven in the morning, I normally expect it to be a live ongoing emergency call, or perhaps some who had crashed their car on the way to work or just woke up to find their house burgled or car nicked from the driveway – not a shoplifting that took place sometime yesterday at a shop that won’t be open for two hours anyway !!
Undeterred by such minor matters however, I eagerly agreed to take on this major divisional crime, if for no other reason than it meant some other poor soul was about to get dumped on from above with the obligatory “My ex’s new girlfriends brothers missus called me a slag on Facebook” job …. which probably would have tipped me over the edge having dealt with half a dozen similar reports last set of shifts !
In any case, having also been given the joyous news from the night shift I had just taken over from that our one and only panda had given up the goat on them in a puff of smoke (or more likely copious amounts of oil which had escaped from the engine block via the now non-existent head gasket) last night on route to an immediate response and was last seen sailing off into the sunset on the back of an AA lorry, it was a great opportunity for me to test out those long dangly things on the bottom of my body and take a walk into town…. Did you know that if you move your left leg in front of your right, then your right leg in front of your left and keep repeating this procedure, you are actually able to experience self-propelled motion !! Genius …. or at the very least something to do with evolution, or that Darwin bloke, or Voodoo magic or maybe even all three ….
So …. eight o’clock and off I set. I’d made the decision not only to be on the doorstep of Boots the moment they opened their doors but also to harass all those hard-pressed mums and dads who seem to think having their own little Jimmy or Jenny at the local school means they have a god-given right to park on the double yellow lines and zig zag markings outside the school which the local Council very kindly put there purely for the purpose of keeping said Jimmy and Jenny and all their little friends safe and well on the way to and from school, but which are completely and utterly useless if zillions of inconsiderate parents insist on parking on them anyway and blocking the view of every other road-user for half a mile around.
Having achieved my goal of creating total pandemonium and yes, Chaos, outside the school as people were forced to park, well, at least 100 metres away from the school gates and copy my earlier described self-propulsion experiment in order to get their little ones into the school grounds, I plodded on down the street towards the town’s shopping area, ears finely tuned to the mutterings and moaning left behind in my wake, and as if down to a tee, I arrived at the front door of my quest shop just as Mary the manager unlocked the door ready for another exciting day of capitalistic endeavour.
In fairness, not that I would wish to cast aspersions on any one person, or stereotype, or jump to conclusions, I could have guessed, with 99.99% accuracy whose shiny (or to be more accurate, gaunt and spotty) face I would be looking at on the stores CCTV system, none other than my long time, light fingered adversary, Druggie Dan. I wouldn’t be far off the mark to say that some weeks I spend more time in the company of Druggie Dan than I do with Mrs Chaos, such is the amount of time Dan spends in the back of a police car or inside a police station due to his ineptness at his chosen career.
And yet again, I was not to be disappointed. There, on the video screen, as clear as day, was classically incriminating evidence of Dan carrying out yet his latest extremely poor attempt at disguising his efforts to relive one or another major retail corporation of a little more of their profits. With statement in hand and CCTV in plastic sealed evidence bag I wandered out of the front of the store trying to weigh up in my mind which of the several public benches scattered around the shopping area I would find Dan sat with a bottle of Frosty Jacks or whichever disgustingly cheap and nasty alcohol he had been able to beg/borrow/steal this morning. As it was not yet even ten o’clock, there was still a chance, a small one I admit but still a chance, that there may even be some of the ‘more toxic than bleach’ related liquid left in the bottle.
I didn’t actually get that far this morning though. As I stepped out of the shops front door and onto the pedestrianised street I was immediately approached by an anxious looking little old lady, Mrs Richards as I soon found out, who seemed to have the worries of the world on her shoulders. “Excuse me officer” she said, “I’m sorry to bother you ……”
Well that was all I needed to hear. People of an older generation DO NOT bother the police unless it’s important. They don’t ring us up to complain that Billy shagged Tracey cos Tracey did the dirty on him with Nigel … and Danny … at the same time. They don’t make up stories about how their latest iPhone27 was mysteriously stolen during the 2 microseconds they left it on the bar in some nightclub or other while they went for a dance and a grope with some guy who’s name they neither know nor care about …. and they certainly don’t ring up and say “My ex’s new girlfriends brothers missus called me a slag on Facebook”.
When a lady of Mrs Richard’s standing says “I’m sorry to bother you ….” this means it IS going to be something important, and more than likely quite serious as well.
In this case it was .. and the story began to unfold quite quickly. “Well” said Mrs Richards “It happened when I went to let my dog out this morning …” “Ohh I do feel so silly now I’m sorry” she said.
“No please go on” I reassured her, knowing full well that I was going to hear something very soon that would change the days events greatly. “There were these two men next door. Mr Smith went into a home a while ago you know, and his son doesn’t come up that often to check the house and do the garden. I wish he would you know, or at least get somebody to mow the lawns, they look such a mess most of the time …”
Having listened quietly to Mrs Richards concerns over next-door-house-husbandry or lack thereof, we very quickly arrived at the crux of the matter. “Well at first I thought they were here to clear the house out, you know I thought maybe Mr Smith had passed away or his son was emptying the house but when I went outside to ask them if they wanted a cup of tea, they just got in the van and drove away, but they’ve come back again. The one man knocked on my door and told me not to worry but they had lost the key and were going to have to break a window.”
“They said their mum and dad lived there but I’ve never seen them before and I’m sure Mrs Smith went a long time ago”.
By now, my grey matter had begun to wake up and the old alarm bells had started to ring. I wanted to ask Mrs Williams the important questions that would help me decide the best way to deal with the information she was starting to impart, but not only did it seem impolite for me to interrupt, I’m not so sure I would have been able to anyway and the dear old lady was by now in full swing …. “so I thought they must be up to no good so I went back inside and I got my camera and I took some photographs of them. I thought if I came into town straight away and got the film developed (yes, people still do use film cameras !!!!) I could bring the photographs round to the police station and show you”.
Trying not to over-worry Mrs Richards I simply said “Well that’s very kind of you … and have you got the pictures with you now ?”
“No” Mrs Richards said, with an even more worried expression on her face “I’m so sorry, I should have got them back before I came to speak to you, I’m so sorry for wasting your time”. I had to interrupt at this point for fear of Mrs R breaking into tears ….
“It’s perfectly okay” I began “I just wondered from what you were telling me. Maybe I could pop round when you get them developed and have a look at them ?”
“That would be very kind of you” said Mrs Richards, “I shall be picking them up in a little while. I thought I had better pay extra for the one hour service, just in case it would help”
“Mrs Richards” I said, “you are amazing” immediately thinking to myself how I was going to claim from police funds for the cost of Mrs Richards’ film processing at the very least. “Tell you what” I said, “let’s walk back down to the shop now and I’ll have a word with the manager, see if we can speed things up a little”. And so we did. As we began to walk, I called up my shift colleagues Dave and Katie, gave them a brief resume of what was going on and asked them to head over to the location asap to check it out ‘just in case’, although knowing if anything had gone on, those responsible would be well away by now.
It was only a couple of minutes walk to the other end of the street to the camera shop and after a brief explanation to the lad behind the counter he popped out back and soon came back with old Roger Pryce, the shops owner. “PC Chaos”, Roger said, “very long time. My lad here has told me what’s happened, the film is in the machine now so the pictures will only be a few more minutes …”
And then he turned to Mrs Richard’s and said “My dear, I do wish you’d told me why you needed the pictures in the first place” and with that he insisted on refunding her money right away. Not that it was an easy thing to do, as Mrs Richards became very insistent that the shop owner should not be out of pocket and I think only gave in and accepted the money back to shut Mr Pryce up !
Still, within a few minutes the pictures were in my hand … and what excellent shots they were – especially of one of the chaps with something in hand trying to force the rear door and then having more success with a window; of the pair of them carrying a TV and a clearly filled bag out of the back door and then, blessing of all blessings, some good pictures of their van, including the number plate ! Well, I couldn’t believe my luck and was quickly on the radio passing the details of the van and descriptions of the possible offenders back to the control room.
It was just about now that Dave and Katie got to the address and indeed confirmed a break in had taken place. The Control Room swung everything into action, despatching a forensics officer and CID to the location, and getting the vehicles details placed onto the Police National Computer (PNC) so that if, by chance the vehicle went past any ANPR cameras a warning would be sent to the nearest Police Control Room. The van wasn’t locally registered so we had no real idea where it may have gone now, or when it might pop up next.
I told Mrs Richards that I needed to get a statement from her about what she had seen and suggested we went back to her house so we could sit down and ‘have a cuppa’ while we got things sorted. i think Mrs Richards was more concerned that by accepting a lift home from me she had wasted her return bus ticket than the fact her neighbour had been burgled in broad daylight but sometimes the reality of things takes a little while to hit home.
Once back at Mrs Richard’s house, with cups of tea and custard creams galore on hand, I got down to the nitty gritty of putting pen to paper. I had acknowledged Dave and Katie stood guarding the attacked house as we arrived, and saw the Forensics van come and go next door but before I’d even got onto page three of the witness statement, Dave was knocking on the door like an over-excited kid. “Did you hear that ?” he almost shouted as Mrs Richards led him into the kitchen where I was sat. “Hear what ?” I asked with my best puzzled expression on my face “Some of us are working here not just standing around you know” I retorted in the normal sarcastic yet humourous banter that exists between shift coppers all over the country “You should try it sometime”.
“They got ‘em” Dave continued, ignoring my attempts to brow beat his enthusiasm, “went through a camera on the outskirts of Medbury and the traffic boys pounced” he carried on, without stopping for breath. “Two locked up matching your descriptions and loads of stuff in the back of the van, possibly three or four burglaries worth by the looks”.
“Well that was a bit of a result” I said, “and it’s all thanks to you Mrs Richards” Dave interjected, before I could get the chance to say exactly the same thing myself.
I had just about finished the last page of the statement and got all the ‘I’s’ dotted and ‘T’s’ crossed when there was another knock at the door. When Mrs Richards opened it this time, it was Mr Pryce from the camera shop. “I hope you don’t mind” I heard him say “but you did leave your address when you brought the film in for processing”. Mrs Richards led old Roger into the kitchen where I saw he was holding some sort of hamper and one of the biggest bunch of flowers I’d seen in a long time.
“PC Chaos, twice in a day” Roger joked and turned back to Mrs Richards “I hope you don’t mind, but I mentioned to a couple of the other shop owners about what you did and we all decided you deserve a little thank you for us all for everything you’ve done. Let’s just hope the police can find them now”. “They already have” said Mrs Richards with a big smile on her face, again, before I could even get a word in !