Saturday, October 6

One Sunny Afternoon


From the Editor's keyboard.

''Your call is important to us'' is a common statement on commercial corporate telephone voice mails or holding systems. Most companies have long since learnt that ignoring calls from their customers will lead to failure. The British Police Service (once known as a Force) in the experiences of this (and I suspect other) writers have yet to understand this basic lesson.

Since Durham Constabulary apparently do not wish to take my statement I post as follows (actually it will probably be more effective):

This afternoon was a sunny and warm; a pleasant autumn afternoon. I was walking from the local convenience store with my early editions of the local newspapers to a tea shop, Sedgefield is that type of place. My short walk took me past the Black Lion Public House which has two bench style tables and seats on the pavement. As I walked passed I felt a thud and splash as a water bomb thrown by one of the drunken customers hit the ground just behind me. As I turned round another landed at my feet followed by taunted cries of ''all right mate'' from the drunken water bomber and his noisy mates. Two more water bombs thrown at great force one landed on the table of two ladies sitting out side the tea shop covering one of them with water. A fith missile landed on a vehicle with haled threats aimed at myself of: ''we will get you next time you bastard.'' A sixth was thrown inside the doors of a bus whilst unloading a group of senior citizens near the tea shop.

Being a typical middle-aged person I called the local Police on my mobile to reported the incident. I advised the Police control room that no less than two CCTV's were only a few yards away and if turned on to the troublesome group they could be observed until an officer arrived. My name and details were taken and I patiently waited on a bench nearby for a boy or girl in blue or possibly even a Community Support Officer to arrive. From my slighly phyisical (and perhaps moral) high ground accross the road I watched the group binge drink and occasionally harass passers by and eventually drive off in two vehicles in a clearly drunken and erratic state.

Ninty minutes later I recalled the Police Control room and was told by a somewhat abrasive controler that officers had attended but no one was available to give details. When I queried this I was called back a few minutes later by a senior control person an informed that the CCTV (which is apparently operated by Sedgefield Borough Council and not as we all assume the Police) had not recorded any thing adverse and that the one Police Officer on duty in Sedgefield had been dealing with other priorities and was not available. Clearly I was regarded as somewhat of a nuisance for perusing the incident report and repeating that I had waited and the scene with two other witnesses for a Police response.

The key issue here is that this is not the first time that both the CCTV and the local Police have lost the confidence of this particular tax payer at the exact same location. Back in June a young pregnant Romanian Big Issue homeless magazine seller was systematically abused by kids from the local school and disgracefully spat at by older individuals - it was only when I reported a particularly nasty incident and pointed out that the CCTV would have been focused on the 'crime scene' did the Police seek the evidence; but apparently took no action for reasons they never bothered to tell either myself or the hapless young victim despite a number of requests.

A week ago I witnessed a yob in brazen disregard for any decency stagger out of the troublesome Black Lion expose himself and eventually urinate in a nearby gift shop doorway in full view of passers by and indeed the CCTV (which by this time had two remotely controlled units on its 30 foot pole) which without doubt would have recorded the offence.

So in summary, three key points: One, what is the point of local CCTV's if they do not record anti-social behaviour so that the Police can act (do they just exist to record illegal car parking perhaps) ? Two, Sedgefield has 1,999 less police officers on duty as a routine in the town than on the sunny afternoon when one G W Bush visited, exactly four years ago. Three, I got a very strong impression that the Police (ok civilian operators working at police HQ) regarded my call as a nuisance, they did not call me back when the Police could (or would not) respond with out my prompting them with further calls; clearly my call was not important to them.

One wonders, since my experience this afternoon is not I know unique, if Police's Public relations attitude (or a basic understanding of who their customers are) would be improved if the Chief Constables were elected and democratically accountable by those they seek to serve.
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Update: This evening I received a call and visit from a very pleasant and good looking (a deliberately un-PC comment) young female PC who apologised profusely for the delay in the response but stressed she was the only officer on duty in the locality and had a serious incident to deal with this afternoon. I could not complain she was far too sweet and professional. Apparently the CCTV did record the yobs but the index number of the vehicle that they drove of in a drunken stupor was unreadable owing to the reflexion of the sun - funny that never happens when one is driving at 45 MPH in a 40 limit early on a week day morning on an empty road - I wonder why?

1 comment:

June said...

Well you at least enjoyed the smile of the young female officer but I can cetainly understand your frustration!
One wonders why we pay our community tax!
You should forward your account to your MP Peter!