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The Little Girl in the Radiator is Martin Slevin’s very funny and extremely moving account (don’t ask us, read the reviews) of his much-loved mother’s slide into the cold grip of Alzheimer’s.

littlegirlintheradiatorv2_blogcover-WEB

It’s just before Christmas, and Martin has thrown all the food out of his mother’s kitchen cupboards after finding it’s all years out of date. Here’s his account of their subsequent shopping trip to buy new comestibles:

We drove to Tesco and parked the car.‘Can we buy some cream cakes and chocolate biscuits?’ asked mum brightly, seeming to have forgotten the events back at the house.

‘Sure we can,’ I replied. ‘We can buy whatever you want.’

She beamed at me.

It was Saturday morning, a cold, late November day, and Christmas was only a month away. The supermarket was packed with shoppers, and the shelves were stacked with fancy Christmas knickknacks. Mum was like a little girl again. In the centre of the store stood a huge Christmas tree with tinsel and streamers all around its splayed branches. Hundreds of little fairy lights winked magically on and off.

‘That’s so beautiful,’ observed my mother, standing and gazing at the tree. ‘I wish we had a tree like that.’

‘We will have,’ I replied. ‘I’ll put our tree up in a week or so, we can decorate it together.’

She opened her mouth wide with delight.

‘Can we really?’ she gasped.

I nodded.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, she hugged me. Mum had never really been one for hugs, and it took me by surprise.

We started to shop for tinsel and cream cakes. Mum would see a chocolate éclair and put it in the trolley. Then we would move on to another aisle, suddenly she would rush back and get another cream cake.

‘Just in case,’ she would say, putting the extra one in the trolley.

We wandered around Tesco that morning stocking up on all the healthy stuff: chocolate biscuits, chocolate bars, jam sponges, éclairs, jam doughnuts, and ice cream. I think we bought one or two bits of the boring stuff as well, for form’s sake – a chicken and some potatoes come to mind – but they were more of an afterthought.

‘This is lovely!’ declared mum, as we wandered about. I had not seen her this happy in ages.

When we came to the Christmas decorations she really went to town, strewing tinsels of a dozen glittering hues around our shopping trolley. She found an illuminated pair of plastic elf ears, and put them on. She looked like Mr Spock on acid as we bustled through the busy supermarket. She was clearly having the time of her life.

‘You didn’t tell me it was Christmas,’ she said. ‘I haven’t bought anyone a present yet.’

‘We can sort that out later,’ I replied, hoping she would forget about it. The thought of buying presents for all our dead relatives didn’t really appeal to me.

Mum nodded thoughtfully and pressed on through the busy aisles, totally heedless of the amused glances she was drawing from passers-by, her elf ears flashing like mad as she went.

 

 

But cover your ears, the language is terrible.

Picking Up The Brass is the quasi-autobiographical story of Eddy Nugent, a youth from Manchester who joins the Army in the 1980s – at a time when the major threat to British troops was liver damage, being skiffed (if you really must know: skiffing), and the sergeant major.

(Not to underplay the IRA and the possibility of the Russians invading through Germany, but it wasn’t Afghanistan!)

I say quasi-autobiographical, because Eddy is the creation of two former members of the Royal Corps of Signals, Charlie Bell and Ian Deacon.

It’s a very, very funny book indeed, if you like the idea of skinny, bewildered teenagers being beasted up and down hills by borderline psychopathic drill staff and gradually being transformed into decent soldiers.

Here’s a free extract.

Here’s the cover:

Picking Up The Brass_PUTB full cover jpeg ARRSE

The models were an actual RSM friend of Ian and Charlie called (from memory) Ken, and my cousin Jim.

Jim is from a sheltered background, and at the time he was studying classics at Oxford; he was genuinely terrified of Ken, which led to the excellent image above.

It’s an interesting (well, slightly interesting) case study in the evolution of a jacket, too.

Charlie and Ian originally self-published PUTB, and we picked it up after someone gave me his copy and I read it in one go in the bath, cackling all the time.

Here’s their original jacket:

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_putb original coverI think the chap doing the star jump is Charlie’s brother-in-law, who I think (again) was an officer in the Royal Marines.

Here’s our designer Paul Hill’s first go at something a bit more bookshop friendly:

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_Picking Up The Brass cover

But that was a bit Tom Clancy, and Eddy is more Tom and Jerry.

We needed to get a gormless youth in, dress him in a Wham! t-shirt, and see what ensued.

Cue Jim.

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_Pics_021

We experimented with the ‘Parental Advisory’ splodge a bit:

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_Picking Up The Brass-visualcover7

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_Picking Up The Brass-visualcover6Before settling on the finished article, which we think works quite well.

Jim and Ken are now best buddies, by the way, and have just been away together on a two-man camping trip in the Lakes.

Picking Up The Brass_Overmatter_Brass back cover pic 3 050PUTB was supposed to be part of a trilogy. As yetm, we’ve only published two parts, but one day…

GEORGE ORWELL SUPPOSEDLY said that, in times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

I know that Inspector Gadget isn’t all that popular with everyone – when his blog was in full flow, he was threatened with everything from exposure to death, and they certainly made serious attempts at the former.

But the weird thing is, Gadget has always been big on exposing the bad stuff that the police do, just like Copperfield and Bloggs.

The Home Office and the various police forces have been stuffed at the higher echelons with careerist yes men and women, liars and charlatans for as long as I can remember.

At a time when the criminal justice system is perpetrating a giant deceit on us all, these three brave police officers risked the loss of their careers (and by extension their homes) to tell the truth about fiddled crime figures, bureaucracy and mismanagement.

In return they suffered abuse, and attempts to discredit them from insignificant nonentities who somehow crawled their way to the highest places in the land.

Allowing us to publish those books was a revolutionary act.

Indeed, we nearly called Gadget’s book The Universal Deceit, and here was the draft jacket:

Peverting The Course Of Justice_Cover Art and AI_The Universal Deceit_concept2Why did they write their books?

They did it partly because they were bewildered and insulted that senior officers could spout self-serving lies and dishonesty to their faces, and partly because they are (were, in Copperfield’s case) at the sharp end of having to explain to the victims of crime exactly why it is that the police don’t always provide the best possible service.

Allowing for the idlers and incompetents found in every organisation, it’s generally not because the people at that sharp end don’t want to.

The following extract is from Inspector Gadget’s book Perverting The Course Of Justice (book here, kindle version here, it is still available!), and it is particularly apt as we head into the Christmas period – a time, for most bobbies, of aggressive texts, Facebook threats, and drunken brawls.

And it’s even worse when they go on duty.

 

LOTS OF PEOPLE probably don’t quite understand the words ‘crime’ and ‘detection’, and the role they play in modern policing.

That’s not surprising, because what they mean in reality and what they mean in surreality – ie modern policing – are often two completely different things.

In real life, a crime means something which we would all agree is against the law – theft, assault, burglary – and has an actual victim who has really suffered some harm.

In policing, a ‘crime’ – because of the ‘victim-focused’ National Crime Recording Standard I mentioned earlier – can mean, in practice, almost anything which half sounds like it might possibly be a bit like a crime and which is reported to us. (Because who are we to tell Mr Hughes that his ex’s nasty text message isn’t a crime?)

Here is one example of a non-crime taken seriously by us.

It’s late one afternoon in the middle of last December. The Christmas lights are ablaze on every house in Bigtown, and the concrete walkway outside the local Spar is covered in fresh white litter. Inside, there’s a queue of people waiting to pay for their groceries. Halfway down the line, a little girl and her mum are chatting about Santa Claus, and the presents he will be delivering in a fortnight.

In front of them is a typical Bigtown youth – Burberry scarf, Nike trainers, NY Yankees cap and a ton of bling.

Overhearing their conversation, he turns round, looks at the girl and says, ‘You don’t believe in Father Christmas, do ya? Your mum’s telling you lies… he ain’t real.’

The little girl bursts into tears and the angry mum storms out of the shop.

I like to think that, if that happened to me, I’d tell my daughter that the nasty man was talking rubbish, and chalk it up to experience.

But modern life being what it is, mum doesn’t do this; instead, she phones us on her mobile from the street outside, like it’s a police matter.

OK, so we get a call from a lady wanting to report a Santa denier.

We just tell her we’re awfully sorry but it’s not really one for us, right?

Wrong. The call-taker logs it on the system as a harassment offence.

We all know that if the woman had been calling to report a criminal damage that had happened the night before she’d have got someone out a week next Tuesday.

But because certain triggers are hit – there’s a child involved, this area happens to be a crime hotspot and the man is still at the scene – a patrol is despatched immediately, to speak to the mum and little girl and, if possible, grab the ‘offender’ and even seize the CCTV to see if they can ID him.

To me, that’s just about as mad as it gets. Is it, even at the edges of abstract technicality, a crime? Harassment is about causing alarm or distress to another.

As a senior officer asked in the SMT morning meeting, ‘How can it be harassment to tell someone Santa doesn’t exist? I mean, he doesn’t. Does he?’

He’s got a point. Short of producing Santa himself at an ID parade and proving he’s real, the case is going nowhere.

But time and resources have been wasted in a fairly ludicrous way.

Here’s another one.

Two young lads outside a newsagent. One, a 10-year-old, goes in and buys a packet of crisps. Walkers, salt and vinegar I believe. When he comes back out and opens the packet, his 11-year-old chum swoops on him, sticks a fist into the bag and legs it down the road, cackling in glee with a handful of crisps.

The first boy tells his mum and, yes, she calls us.

The ‘thief’ is questioned but – horror of horrors – he denies it.

This causes our whole system to collapse, because we’re all about getting people to cough to minor offences and accept cautions for them to make detections.

Where do we go from here?

Forensics?

ID parades with witnesses from the scene who saw the boy make off with the crisps?

Thankfully, there is some residual common sense in the police, and the case eventually got ‘no-crimed’ – but not before hours of police time was wasted, and only after submissions in triplicate to the crime auditors to get them to wipe it off the computer.

These aren’t isolated cases. Here are a few others from the papers recently:

- A man ‘found in possession of an egg with intent to throw’.

- A child who removed a slice of cucumber from a sandwich and threw it at another youngster.

- A woman arrested (on her wedding day) for criminal damage after her foot slipped on the accelerator and her vehicle damaged a car park barrier.

- Another child who threw cream buns at a bus.

- A 70-year-old pensioner arrested for criminal damage after cutting back a neighbour’s conifer trees.

- A man who threw a glass of water over his girlfriend.

I didn’t make any of these up. Anti-social, yes, and in some cases maybe we ought to have a quiet word with the people involved. But are they really ‘crimes’?

Once someone reports them to us as such, and the call-taker enters them onto our computer databases as such, then, yes, they are.

So that’s ‘crime’. What’s a ‘detection’?

You perhaps think this refers to a mechanism whereby the person responsible for a crime, real or surreal, is caught and punished for it.

In fact, it may just mean that a suspect has been charged* – he doesn’t have to be found guilty. Equally, he may have been cautioned, or reported for summons, or been issued with a Penalty Notice for Disorder, or the offence may have been taken into consideration when he is sentenced for other matters.

What are the implications of all of this?

They are many and varied.

Firstly, all of a sudden anyone who has been looked at a bit funny can ring the police and demand a response.

Secondly, this will mean one extra recorded crime on the force’s figures (eg ‘harassment’ for looking at someone funny).

Thirdly, we can’t just ignore them. Under NCRS, we mostly have to take them seriously, which is just one reason why it takes us three days to show up for your burglary. Plus lots of undetected ‘crimes’ make Chief Constables look bad, and worry the Home Secretary, so they have to be detected with a response that is bureaucratic and slow and will take officers off the street for hours.

Fourthly, a boy who throws a piece of cucumber at a classmate may feel under pressure to accept a caution – and a permanent entry on his criminal record. This may affect his chances of employment later in life. (Though at the rate we’re criminalising the population, it won’t be long before pretty much everyone has a record, and it’s weird if you haven’t.)

Finally, in many forces, each officer now has an individual ‘Detection Target’. If he or she does not hit this target, he or she will end up with an ‘Action Plan’ on his or her Annual Appraisal. This is essentially a negative statement on your file, which can exclude you from an interview for a specialisation or promotion at the ‘paper-sift’ stage. Helping old ladies across the road, diving into swollen rivers to rescue drowning people and preventing or deterring crime from happening in the first place – none of these count against your individual target.

Of the above implications, the only one that really matters is our figures for undetected crimes. That’s because these are the only ones that affect senior police officers and politicians.

It doesn’t matter that bobbies might be so tied up looking for youths who don’t believe in Father Christmas that they can’t come out when you’re assaulted, because senior cops and MPs don’t very often get assaulted. If the young salt and vinegar crisps thief gets a criminal record, that doesn’t matter either, because who cares? And neither does the systematic degradation of what was once a force into a ‘service’ that often only seems to serve the non-contributory members of society, because if the Chief Constable or the Lord Chief Justice or The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith MP has a gang of rowdy youths hanging around outside late at night, you can bet there’ll be a rapid and forceful response to that. (Though remember, Jacqui, that you were once a humble schoolteacher, and you won’t be Home Secretary for ever.)

PC David Copperfield was the first to break ranks and tell people about this nonsense. Since then, there have been lots of noises about how it’s all going to change, and they’re going to slash bureaucracy and cut targets. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, and I’ll believe it when I see it.

Incidentally, the crisps theft was not a lone incident.

There were 500 similar thefts, of ‘nominal value under £1’, across my force in the past six months.

What are these £1 thefts?

Well, this might explain some of them: If your credit card is nicked and used, and the guy who stole it is later arrested with it still on him, this presents us with an opportunity. How about if the police crime this twice?

Once for the deception involved in using it to buy alloy rims for his Vauxhall Corsa, and once for the theft of the actual piece of plastic, nominal value under £1.

So some copper calls you up. ‘Mr Smith, isn’t it great? We got the guy who nicked your card. We’re talking to the bank about the loss of the money, and we also want to deal with him for the card itself. Can we just come and take a quick statement from you?’

This is called a ‘Loser’s Statement’ – it’s designed to head off a defence in court that you are the thief’s best mate and you always let him use your card.

You say, ‘Yep, no problem’, and the Old Bill nip round. Result: the theft of the credit card itself is detected and the crime figures for theft look a little better. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether we’d bother criming the theft of the card if we hadn’t actually already recovered it.

*The reason we’re judged on ‘detections’ and not the outcome of a case at court is that the police have no real influence over what some crazy buffoon of a magistrate decides to do, and no control over a jury in Crown Court. All we can really do is influence the investigation. Though in many cases we can’t really do that either – witnesses decide not to give evidence because they are a friend of the accused, or victims (often women in DV cases) are frightened to assist in prosecutions.

I was in London yesterday for a meeting with an author (we’re finally starting to catch up on things which have unfortunately been held in abeyance while we concentrated on At The Going Down Of The Sun) and my journey took me onto the Tube.

We were held up near Baker Street because of what the announcer called ‘a person on the line’.

It reminded me of this sad and horrific element of Stuart Gray’s A Paramedic’s Diary (kindle version available here, we have paperbacks ourselves here, with free postage and packing):

THE ONE I REMEMBER most vividly was my first.

It happened at London Bridge station a while back and it ended up being shown in an episode on BBC’s Trauma programme, a fly-on-the-wall documentary series following emergency crews as they went about their business.

I was working with a colleague on a routine transfer call, and had just arrived at the address when this higher priority call came through as a GB*: ‘One-under at London Bridge, any mobile able to respond please press Priority.’

We pressed the button and got the call.

I wasn’t at all sure if I wanted it, but then what normal human being looks forward to seeing what a man looks like after a tube train has run over the top of him?

We got the blue lights on, dodged through the afternoon traffic and were on-scene within a few minutes.

A couple of solo paramedics had already arrived and we made our way down the escalators to see what we could do to help.

It was hot and noisy and sweaty, but all thought of personal comfort evaporated when we got to the platform.

The train had stopped and most of it was inside the tunnel; the last carriage or two was still on at the platform and we could see the activity underneath.

Diary of a Paramedic

A paramedic was already there, tending to the patient who, incredibly, was still alive. According to witnesses, he had jumped in front of the train (one-unders are usually witnessed, by the poor driver if nobody else) and had been dragged underneath.

His torso had hit the train but his head had failed to make contact. Now he was trapped underneath, with massive internal injuries, affecting his chest and abdomen.

Amazingly, he hadn’t lost any limbs and he didn’t have a mark on his head.

He was still breathing and just about conscious. He wasn’t talking to anyone, just moaning and groaning softly. My crew mate and I got down and crawled under as far as we could to offer our assistance.

The LFB (fire brigade) had arrived and they were going to lift the train off the track so that we could slide the man and ourselves out from underneath. Unfortunately, they can only lift the train a few inches off the rails, so it’s still a tight and dangerous squeeze on exit.

Another crew had arrived now, and a trolley bed and further equipment was being brought down.

HEMS* arrived; the first thing I knew about it was when I turned around to speak to someone and found myself looking at an orange-suited doctor and a BBC camera. (My butt was the first thing you saw of me on the programme when it aired.)

We continued to try and untangle the man’s body; he was twisted under the train’s metal structures and was effectively caught on the bottom with his legs wrapped around a cross-bar.

As soon as the train was moved and he was freed, I heard yelling and banging around and someone calling for suction. Something had gone wrong. I passed the suction equipment through and the horribly injured guy was dragged out after a few seconds. He had gone into cardiac arrest.He was resuscitated on the platform, and a thoracotomy was prepared. This is something HEMS can do but we cannot; it’s a hugely invasive procedure that involves cutting holes in the chest at each side and then cutting right across and opening the chest cavity in order to get at the internal organs, particularly the heart, directly.

I have never seen anyone survive a thoracotomy, it is just about the most desperate thing you can do, a last-gasp, last hope affair.

On this occasion, once the holes were put in, resus had become so desperate that the decision was made not to open him up completely. I was bagging the man, and every time I pushed air into his lungs blood would spurt out of the two holes in his side. It wasn’t pretty.

As I ventilated him, I looked down at his face. He was well-fed, and his clothes weren’t begging gear. He didn’t look like he had come off the street, he looked as though he had a life somewhere. He had a number of tattoos on his body, including one of the Scottish flag. A fellow countryman.

The resus effort was called off after almost an hour of hard work. There was no way he could be brought back. His internal injuries were significant enough to have caused him to lose almost all of his blood: there was certainly enough of it around that platform.

As he was bagged up, I wondered what had driven him to this. I wondered, too, what it had been like.

How would it feel to stand on a platform, waiting for the distant rattle and echo of an approaching train, with commuters and tourists chatting away nearby, counting down the final seconds of your life?

And what would it be like as you threw yourself onto the track?

He’d have been hoping for a sudden despatch, but that’s not what he got. He had suffered for some time after being hit by the train, though his plans had eventually come to their terminal fruition.

He had achieved what he had set out to do. But why had he done it?

A few weeks after this job, my second call of the night – after a successful resuscitation – was to attend a ‘one under’ at a central London tube station.

The LFB, police and an ambulance were on scene and a motorcycle solo had travelled with me. A large crowd had gathered outside the station because the evacuation alarm had been activated and the station had been cleared.

The crowd made it difficult to get access to the entrance, and I had to struggle through the mass of people to get to the gates, which were being guarded by the police and underground staff.

On the platform, a group of medics, police officers, fire personnel and tube staff had gathered.

One of my colleagues had volunteered to get under the train with a fireman and they had both climbed down, only to be told to keep still because nobody was sure if the power was off.

They both froze where they were, but not before my colleague had checked the man’s vital signs and found them to be absent – he wasn’t breathing and he didn’t have a pulse.

He was still lying where he’d been hit, everyone waiting for the tube staff to verify that the power was off.

It’s hot and dirty down there and the last thing you need is the additional worry of possible electrocution: two colleagues from my station had previously suffered severe electric shocks under a train after being given assurances that it was safe.

They could easily have been killed and this risk is simply not acceptable, especially when the person who jumped may well be dead anyway.

I looked underneath the train and saw a man lying on his side with a large pool of blood around his head. He wasn’t breathing at all. He had obviously died of his injuries but we still had to get under the train to confirm that. We stood on the platform with all the other services, waiting for the word.

Once the all-clear was given, further checks were made but it was obvious the man hadn’t survived. The HEMS team arrived just as the two volunteers were climbing out of the pit.

I described what we had and the doctor got down to confirm that the man was beyond help. I went in with him and waited until he had done what was necessary.

The body was left where it lay and the train was moved away to reveal it for the police and Coroner to examine. It wouldn’t be moved until that had been done, so the platform would remain closed.

Outside, the traffic was building up. Long queues were developing all over the West End, partly due to the sudden increase in taxis flooding the area to carry commuters home, and partly because of some existing road works. The main cause of the chaos, however, was the virtual car-park of emergency vehicles in the area and the forced closure of the roads around the station.

I left the station platform and headed for fresh air.

While I was doing the paperwork, a member of London Underground staff approached me and asked if I could take care of a young woman who had been sitting outside the station entrance, crying. I took her to the car and she was soon joined by a friend who had been called to take her home. I decided to take her to hospital, with her agreement, because she was in a very bad emotional state.

During the journey, which was painfully slow due to the heavy traffic, I looked at her in my rear-view mirror. Her face was a mask of deep and painful emotion; she looked haunted, her eyes almost terrified, and she said nothing throughout the journey.

Who was this frightened, scarred young woman?

She was the commuter who had been standing next to the man when he had jumped in front of the train.

*’General Broadcast’ – a radio alert which goes out to ALL frontline vehicles, known as mobiles, on a specific channel. The broadcast contains information or requests crews to ‘green up’ and make themselves available for a call that is queuing. At busy times, GBs are common.

**HEMS. The Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, based at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. They are an elite team of doctors and paramedics who are called to the most serious patients, where difficult entrapment or major trauma is involved. Sometimes they travel by helicopter (during daylight hours) and sometimes in a specially-liveried fast response car. They are activated either directly by Control or by crew request.

 

LIEUTENANT DANIEL CLACK

8 PL, C COY, 1 RIFLES

MARCH 25, 1987 – AUGUST 12, 2011

Dan Clack

Lt Dan Clack: His final letter read, ‘Dear Mum, I must start by apologising for the pain you are going through now…I hope you take some comfort from knowing that I was always prepared to make this sacrifice.’

LIEUTENANT DAN CLACK was a much-loved son, boyfriend and brother.

He was also loved and respected by his men from the moment they met him. ‘He was the best young officer I’ve worked with,’ said his platoon serjeant, Darren Gornall. ‘I know when tragic events happen they always say that the person was outstanding, but in Dan’s case it really is the truth.’

Lt Clack was killed, aged twenty-four, by an IED packed with ball-bearings while on patrol in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand Province.

His mother, Sue, and father, Martin, and some of those with whom he served, have been kind enough to tell Graham Bound the story of Dan’s life and death, and we are proud to be able to share it in our new book At The Going Down Of the Sun.

If you read nothing else today, you really should read the following two letters.

The first is the letter Dan Clack left for his fellow soldiers of The Rifles, to be opened only in the event of his death:

Dan Clack note to his men

The second is the letter he left behind for his mum, Sue:

Dan to Mum

[Note: this is a repost for Facebook]

See also:

CAPTAIN JAMES PHILIPPSON, RIP

CORPORAL MARK WRIGHT GC, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JAKE ALDERTON, RIP

CORPORAL SARAH BRYANT, RIP

CORPORAL ROB DEERING, RIP

ACTING SERGEANT SEAN BINNIE, RIP

RIFLEMAN CYRUS THATCHER, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL DANE ELSON, RIP

RIFLEMAN WILL ALDRIDGE

CORPORAL CHRIS HARRISON, RIP

LANCE BOMBARDIER MARK CHANDLER, RIP

MARINE STEVEN BIRDSALL, RIP

PRIVATE TOM SEPHTON, RIP

RANGER AARON MCCORMICK, RIP

COLOUR SERJEANT KEVIN FORTUNA, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL JON MCKINLAY, RIP

LANCE CORPORAL PETER EUSTACE, RIP

LANCE SERGEANT DAN COLLINS, RIP

CORPORAL CHANNING DAY, RIP

WE RARELY ASK people to make noise about any of our books, because it’s a bit cheeky.

We pay someone to do a little PR, and if the books get noticed they get noticed. If they don’t, they don’t, c’est la vie.

But please do tweet about, talk about, blog about At The Going Down Of The Sun.

We’d be so grateful if you could tell your friends and work colleagues and family members about it, review it on Amazon (and elsewhere), select it for your book clubs… you get the picture.

Small publishers like Monday Books have a great deal of difficulty in cutting through to the mainstream media, for whatever reason.

It’s even tougher at this time of year, when the shops (and review sections) are full of cookery books, celebrity autobiographies and novelty titles for Christmas.

We’re not complaining, we do fine anyway (though it would be nice if some of the newspaper and magazine books pages we’ve sent copies to decided to review the book).

But we could just do with whatever help we can get from you.

Yes, of course we have a commercial interest in this (though we will be donating to military charities, too), but it really is not about that.

It’s about getting the stories of people like Jim Philippson, Channing Day, Peter Eustace, Dan Clack and Mark Wright out there to as wide an audience as possible.

More than any other book we’ve ever been involved in, this has been a labour of love.

It’s more important than any book we’ve ever published, or perhaps ever will.

We’ve shed tears and almost sweated blood over it in the last year or eighteen months, and we just want people to be aware of it.

Thanks in advance.

atthegoingdownofthesun-cover_web.jpg

A fifth of all crime goes unrecorded, according to ‘shocking’ new figures revealed by HMIC.

It depends on your definition of shocking, really.

We revealed this kind of thing some years ago in Wasting Police Time, Perverting the Course of Justice and Diary of an On-Call Girl.

Here is Inspector Gadget in Perverting the Course of Justice explaining why it is that even when they aren’t ‘no criming’ it as being down to badgers, the cops don’t always come out when your shed gets broken into (it’s not always because the bobbies at the sharp end don’t want to):

CONTROL STRATEGY CRIME, AND OTHER JARGON THAT WINDS PEOPLE UP

TWO other things I explain to people who complain, if they still have the will to live, are Control Strategy Crime and Volume Crime. They’re separate but intertwined, like much of the semi-impenetrable undergrowth of police bureaucracy.

I was at a dinner party the other night. As the only policeman there, I was obviously cornered for most of the evening by people who wanted to ask how many people I had shot (none) / ask if it’s true that you can drink three pints on a full stomach and still drive (it’s not) / complain about the police.

One chap, Steve, was quite persistent. He’d been the victim of a criminal damage: his garage door had been sprayed with the word ‘Tosser’ and the window in the side of the garage had been smashed.

‘I phoned your lot,’ said Steve. ‘All they were interested in was giving me a crime number to claim on my insurance. What about coming out to look for the buggers that did it?’

I couldn’t speak for his specific case – different force – but it was a familiar story.

This is about Control Strategy Crime and Volume Crime.

CS Crime means types of crime that bureaucrats, our own and those in the Home Office hundreds of miles away, dictate to us as priorities. They will always include the really big stuff like rape and murder, plus domestic burglary and street robbery, but the other six or so will be things that will come onto and drop off our crime control strategy from time to time. I’ve just looked, and today they are:

Commercial premises burglary

Burglary non-dwelling (sheds)

Criminal damage

Theft from motor vehicles

Theft of motor vehicles

Assaults

Shed burglaries just came onto our list at the expense of class A drug use.

That’s not because people round our way aren’t bothered about heroin addicts on the streets, and they really care about the theft of Strimmers, it’s because our analysts say we’ve got Class A drugs under control for the time being, so we aren’t worried about that any more.

On the other hand, we’ve had a few shed breaks, so we need to get right on it. This means that everything we’ve got in terms of proactive resources – cameras, technical, scenes of crime, surveillance units – is diverted to the sheds.

It means identifying offenders, looking into recent prison releases, leafleting homes, target-hardening and crime prevention.

It means putting people out in plain clothes at night, focusing all the down time on those areas, targeting handlers.

It means that every single person, when they are not doing a job, goes to those places where the sheds have been hit before, because it is not just a type of crime, it is an area too, a ‘hot spot’.

‘Volume Crime’, meanwhile, is stuff exactly like that in the list above – the thefts from motor vehicles, minor criminal damages, shed burglaries, graffiti and all the attempts to do these sorts of things – but which is not at such a level, locally, as to have made it to the Control Strategy Crime list.

The Home Office says, officially, that we need not investigate these crimes as long as they’re not currently on our Control Strategy, and they fit certain criteria.

These can be evidential (Did anyone witness the crime? Does anyone know who the offenders are? Did they leave anything behind? Is it on camera?) or value-based (If something was nicked or damaged, how much was it worth?)

The interplay between these two factors can, unsurprisingly, confuse and annoy our punters.

I assume Steve’s force didn’t have criminal damage on its list of Control Strategy Crime when he called, which is why they fobbed him off. If it is on the list the following week, after a spate of such incidents, and his neighbour’s garage gets done over, the neighbour will get the full works.

I understand how bad this looks.

I don’t like not investigating crimes, however minor they might be.

I would love it if every burglary victim got CSI and an investigating officer there within a reasonable time.

I think it would be great if we could attend every criminal damage report, even if it turns out there is nothing there for us in the way of leads.

Broken windows policing, pioneered in New York, where low-level crime is vigorously pursued, has a lot going for it (as long as the offenders get proper sanctions at court, which they wouldn’t in the UK but do in the States).

We like hassling petty criminals.

But we’re back to our old friend reality again. What I would like, and you would like, is one thing: what we can deliver with current resources and ways of working is another.

Steve’s garage is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you visit Google and type in the phrase ‘police fail to investigate crimes’ you come up with a stack of newspaper stories from November 2007.

A typical headline, from The Sunday Telegraph, is: ‘Official: Police leave two million crimes uninvestigated’.

In the story, the reporter explains how we are ‘refusing to investigate crimes including huge numbers of burglaries and thefts’.

The implication is that we are giving criminals an easy ride, and the story was widely commented upon, mostly by angry readers. The redoubtable Norman Brennan, the chairman of the Victims of Crime Trust and (then) a serving police officer, told the paper: ‘The public are our masters and have a right to know why we don’t turn up to every call and investigate every crime.’

There are two elements to this. The first is about solving crimes. The second is doing all we can to try to solve them.

There are some crimes we have no chance of ever clearing up.

I’m sorry if that sounds defeatist, but it’s the truth. Often, there just are no lines of enquiry – people smash up a bus stop at 2am and run off, there’s no CCTV and no-one sees them. There’s not much we can really do about that.

However, in many cases, as Steve would confirm, we don’t even turn up to have a look.

This is because, if we attended the scene and carried out an investigation every time anyone threw a brick through a window, or scratched a car, or wrote ‘Tosser’ on a garage, the whole law enforcement system as it currently stands, with existing resources, would grind to a halt and we would not be able to deal with more serious things.

If Sunday Telegraph readers really want us to investigate every one of those two million volume crimes, they need to understand that this will require a sizeable hike in the tax levy to pay for even more police.

A practical example. We regularly get people calling to complain that their neighbour’s burglar alarm has been ringing for hours and we haven’t turned up. I’ve read research suggesting that something like 13 million burglar alarms go off every year. If we attended them all, we’d need a police force twice the size of the US Army. So what we do is ask the caller to go and have a quick look and see if he can see anything suspicious, at which point he gets outraged, and starts asking what he pays his taxes for.

(Of course, if we cut back on our paperwork and got more of us out on the streets, we could certainly cover much more than we do with our current numbers.)

Most reasonable people understand this – even if they don’t like it – when you explain it to them.

It would help if police forces and the Government took that line, instead of making dream world promises about how they’re going to deal with minor crime through Neighbourhood Policing and Citizen Focus and whatever follows next.

It would also help if [Victims of Crime Trust founder] Norman Brennan’s suggestion that ‘the public have a right to know why we don’t turn up to every call and investigate every crime’ was accompanied by an explanation from Norman as to why this is the case.

The truth is, only people who can really deal with much of this stuff are the public themselves.

Indeed, they used to deal with it without us and, in many parts of the country, they still do. In the village where I live, for instance, we don’t have problems with kids smashing up the phone box, because our local parents control their kids. No-one else does that for us.

It’s not because of the massive police presence in the area, because there isn’t one. In a lot of places, people now look to the police to do that kind of job, but we just can’t do it, however much we might like to.

In the absence of 200,000 new bobbies or a radical change in working practices, I suppose we do have to have some method of getting crime down to a manageable heap.

Personally, I don’t think it should be done on how much of it there is; I think it should be done on the moral equivalence of it.

If 90-year-old Gladys has had some scumbag in her house nicking her life savings, that should be of greater priority than some drug dealer who gets boshed over the head when a deal goes wrong.

But it won’t be, because his is a ‘street crime’ and hers is just a theft.

Sorry, Gladys.

 

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