Crime victims and Christmas messages
On the day before Christmas eve, I discovered that I had been the victim of crime. Don’t start to feel too sorry for me. As crimes go, it was rather low grade. When I went out first thing in the morning to bike to work, I walked over a pile of glass – as someone had come down our back lane during the night and smashed the son’s car window in. Nothing taken, just a mess.
The first priority was to get it mended before the Christmas holidays. And God Bless Murketts of Cambridge, they did.
Then we debated about whether to call the police. We knew we couldn’t claim the cost off the insurance – but there was a sense of citizenly duty here. What if there had been a whole series of car windows bashed in all up the street? Shouldn’t we help the boys in blue to get a full picture of the crime spree? Besides, if we were to ring up in a week’s time and say that it had happened a second time, wouldn’t it stand us in good stead to have reported the first occurrence?
When the husband first rang the police, they didn’t sound exactly overjoyed to have another crime on their books, and statistics. “That’s an unsoluble crime, Sir”, the man said. But the next day the police rang us back. Not to report an arrest but to suggest that we might be interested in signing up for something called “Ecops”.
This led to a closer encounter with the Cambridge Constabulary than we had ever imagined.
Ecops is an email messaging service from the local police – which promises to send you a regular newsletter detailing the recent crime in your own neighbourhood. We haven’t actually had a newsletter yet, but it seemed to us that all the local criminals would be bound to sign up (in fact the ecops registration list is probably where they start when looking for likely suspects).
But in the course of registration we discovered that our local Chief Constable had been issuing video messages to her flock on the web. Now I am, in general, a great fan of Julie Spence (on the left), I would love to meet her, and I am convinced that it is an injustice that she didn’t get shortlisted for Ian Blair’s job, as head of the Met. But sadly the truth is that she is not a natural for television -- no more than HM the Queen or Mr Ahmadinejad, both of whom must have had much more media training than Julie S, and whose Christmas messages were pretty much a tie so far as I was concerned.
When I heard HM say that we could 'learn from history', I thought she might be going on to say that no western nation had ever won in Afghanistan, but she stopped too soon and went on the show some home videos of Prince Charles aged a few months old in a romper suit (he must have loved that). For most of us in my house, both of them -- HM and Mr A -- seemed slightly on the nutty side of religious.
To return to the local scene, Julie’s Christmas message, recorded in front of a flashing Christmas tree, and to a clunky autocue, was more down to earth. She reminded us all that, even though the recession was a potential stimulus to crime, we shouldn’t forget that shoplifting was theft. Then, after reviewing her force’s sensitivity to the public will, she closed by reminding us not to drink and drive.
I’m sure this is a good thing for Chief Constables to be doing, and it keeps them out of bigger trouble. But I wish someone would help her look happier with it and maybe try to be a little less patronising.
Meanwhile I’ll report back when my ecops newsletter comes in.