It seems to me that things were a lot simpler when I was younger. Not younger as in being a child, but younger as in being in my twenties and thirties. Certain acts were criminal, and as long as you didn’t rape, steal, murder or beat people up, you were unlikely to ever encounter a policeman. And when you did encounter a policeman because someone had stolen from you (the most common reason, in my experience) you could expect said policeman to ask you lots of questions and some serious-looking men in white coats would solemnly come and dust for fingerprints and take lots of photos. Whether they caught the miscreant or not was always a mystery, but you got the distinct impression that they took their jobs very seriously.
By some magic or mystery, I did not have to avail myself of the police’s services during the reign of Major’s Tories. However, after about three years of Blair’s government, a petty crime occurred whereby a radio was stolen from my car. It was clearly an opportunistic crime, committed by an amateur. I was able to make that impressive deduction by the complete shambles the thief made of the interior of my car. Even I would have been able to remove a car radio without destroying the dashboard of the car! Clues abounded, I was certain, so I phoned the police, and while I was waiting for them to answer, I started to unwrap my scarf and take off my winter jacket, wondering how I would while away the hours till they came.
As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered. A bored voice at the other end of the phone told me to “give this crime number to the insurer.” When I enquired as to what time I could expect the police to come and dust for fingerprints, etc., I was told that vehicle crime was only investigated if someone had been hurt.
I was rather taken aback, and even today, a decade later, I still feel the resonance of that shock. I was told that because there was so much car crime, they didn’t bother to investigate it. I did wonder what their tactics would be if murder became a common activity. Would they prefer not to investigate murder?