‘Thank you for calling Surrey Police. We want to help you with your inquiry as quickly as possible. Did you know you can go online…’
That is probably the most depressing sentence in the English language. It is not only preposterous to suggest crime will be better dealt with by a website, it is insulting.
I was ringing 101 to persevere with the police after trying to solve the burglaries in the barn myself, and after almost catching the thieves red-handed.
After putting up game cameras, I captured images of them when they came back a second time. But I needed help with the grainy footage, and if the registration could be read, I needed the police to run it, obviously.
I can’t search vehicle databases. I was going to have to bother the boys and girls and gender neutrals in blue. (I understand there is at least one police officer who identifies as fluid and surely more will follow.)
So I dialled 101 and began hanging on the phone listening to this hoo-hah: ‘Reporting online will save you time and allow you to go to the right department first time.’ What department is that, then? The department for storing all the crimes and not doing anything about them? The department for coming up with excuses to fob off people who have had their stuff nicked and already reported it online? The department for deciding what department organises all these departments? In any case, it went on:
‘Please select from the following options. If you know the extension of the person you want to speak to press one.’
I did, as it happened, because after the burglary of my broken horse rugs and then my friend’s feed bins, this was ‘crimed’ under an ‘occurrence management number’. I had emailed the game camera footage of the second burglary, showing a Ford Transit van pulling up and two thieves loading up feed.
I sent this to the officer I had been told to contact with updates when I first rang in.
This officer had an extension number so I dialled it. Blank. Nothing. So I began again. This time I let the options continue past one: ‘If you don’t know the details of the person you need to speak to press two.’ I kept listening for another option that fitted better, such as: ‘If you wish to be connected to a person who has your evidence but is avoiding your call press three.’ But no such option materialised. Instead: ‘If you are a member of staff phoning in sick press five. For anything else please hold.’ To hear this list of pathetic excuses and feeble attempts to make you give up reporting what has happened to you press nine.
So I held. A cheerful girl came on the line and I gave her my ‘occurrence’ number. I told her I had heard nothing back since emailing the police my camera footage showing thieves — they don’t like you calling them that, I think the proper term is ‘socially and emotionally disadvantaged prospective candidates for outreach’ — doing a burglary — they don’t like you calling it that, it’s an ‘occurrence’. She asked: ‘Are you wanting an update?’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I want to ask if you can enhance the images I sent and run the registration plate. I can’t do any more myself.’ There was a pause. ‘So you’ve been burgled?’
‘Are you looking at anything in the notes that tells you what has happened?’ She intimated she was not. So for the third or fourth time in the past two weeks I commenced to explain the whole thing again, right back to how the Earth cooled, then the dinosaurs came.
Twenty minutes later, when I had finished, she said she was going to ask her superiors. After a long silence she came back and said she was going to put me through to ‘occurrence management’.
The line beeped, and a recording message said: ‘We are away from our desks. If you wish to report a crime, please call 101.’ Beep.
So I left a message: ‘Right. This is completely unacceptable. I have solved a crime I’m a victim of and you don’t have to do anything except run the reg, then go round to their house and offer them more benefits, or whatever it is you do. And before you say you have worse crimes to deal with, have you considered that by letting people rob things with impunity it is emboldening them, so this crime leads to more crime and bigger crime and that is why you are so snowed under?’ Beeeeeeep.
A few minutes later came the text: ‘So that we can continually improve our service we would love to hear your feedback. How satisfied are you with the service you received to your crime?’