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Saturday, August 31, 2002
Policing etc.

There is an interesting leader in The Guardian on policing etc.: Curing bad crime figures. Before that, though, try an article by John O'Farrell - 'I'm a world leader; get me out of here!' - that I wish I'd written myself. It deals with the Johannesburg conference in an unusual and apposite way.

Now to the business of policing. The argument goes that, with better medical treatment, fewer victims die. 'It is the survival of victims, not the work of the police, that is reducing the murder rate.' Hence the call for more paramedics. Perhaps I can concur with that - First Aid should be taught as part of the National Curriculum. You never know when it might be useful.

What about policing, then? Here's a true story.

Several years ago, a musician left his car outside his house for half an hour. In it were several valuable and unusual instruments. When he came out, the car had been broken into and the instruments were gone. Naturally, he informed the police, giving them detailed descriptions of what was missing.

Several days later, while serving in his own music shop on the other side of town, a youth brought in one of his instruments, wanting cash for it. Containing his elation, the man told the youth that, because the instrument was so unusual, he would have to make one or two enquiries before he could suggest a price. He asked for, and was given, the youth's phone number.

As soon as the youth had left the shop, the man telephoned the police and described the incident. Of course, he told them the phone number. Beside himself with pleasure, the man awaited events, knowing that he was, with one stroke, about to get back his cherished instruments while helping to bring a criminal to justice.

He waited a day, two days, three days...a whole week. Unable to wait any longer, the man rang the police to ask what had happened. Perhaps they were too busy to have notified him of the outcome, he supposed. What do you think had happened?

The answer is nothing. When they did, immediately now, raid the youth's address, they found nothing. Symmetry, really.

Whenever I hear calls for more police, I remember this story. I also remember a school reunion I attended where, it turned out, most of the least intelligent boys had become policemen. They had all risen to very senior positions, too. It's about time cries for more police were also attended by provisos about the right calibre of police. There has been some discussion recently about the provision of cardboard cut-out policemen as a crime deterrent. They were used in France some years ago - perhaps they still are (Sorry, I can't provide a link). We should be agitating for more cops of this sort - they're hardly less effective and a lot cheaper...

Meanwhile, up with the paramedics.

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