Jayne Dowle: Shattering any illusions over failings of the police

I’VE had a call from Victim Support. I’ve had several calls from the insurance company. And I’ve had two visits from the glass company repairing the window smashed to smithereens by a wanton act of vandalism on a quiet Tuesday night. It’s been more than a week now, and I’m still waiting for a call or a visit from the people you might think would have been first on the scene – the police.

There we were sitting in our dining room, chatting away about our day. Suddenly there was a loud thud and glass splintered all over the floor. My partner ran to the door to see the disappearing figure of a youth on a bike. On the floor we found a missile of fallen apples taped together. It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Trick or treating, mischief night, whatever you call it, it’s a damned nuisance. As the missile came flying through our window, it destroyed several panes of glass and damaged the leading. Luckily, none of us were hurt, although the children were terrified and refused to go to bed in case the perpetrator came back.

What do you expect to happen in a situation like this? No one died. The damage, although expensive to repair, didn’t stop the traffic or close a road. When I phoned the police to report the crime, I didn’t expect a dozen squad cars with blue flashing lights to turn up immediately on our doorstep. I did, however, expect someone to at least come and take a look. So far though, nothing.

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I’ve rung them three times now. We’ve even got some credible further information which might be able to identify the culprit, which I’ve told them about. Apparently, the officer dealing with our case has been “on leave for a few days”. I was informed of this last Friday. What with the burglaries and the drug-dealing I see on street corners almost every day round here, I realise we won’t be top of the to-do pile when he or she gets back to work. Surely it’s in their interests though to investigate such an obvious crime? What if the culprit does it again, to someone else, someone more vulnerable than us?

Meanwhile, it’s cost us £50 for the insurance excess, and my lovely Edwardian leaded window has been carted away for two weeks to be repaired. And I’m staring at a temporary sheet of Perspex covering the hole and a voting form for the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. The by-election to replace Shaun Wright, who resigned following the Rotherham child abuse scandal, takes place at the end of this month. The voting card came the day after the window was smashed. I regarded it with the deepest of irony.

I know, because what happened in Rotherham proved it, that there are deep-seated issues with fighting crime in South Yorkshire. I hope that whoever wins the by-election manages to tackle these and make our region safer for every citizen. However, I can’t see a single one of them being bothered to concern themselves with a minor matter such as my broken window. I can see no manifesto which vows to deal with annoying anti-social behaviour such as this. No promises to reassure tax-paying, law-abiding folk (and their families) that petty crime would be dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

I felt like screwing up the voting card and throwing it in the bin. I could not vote as a protest, but that wouldn’t make any difference. It would just look like I was as apathetic as the majority of the population of England and Wales. Not even 15 per cent of us bothered to vote for the first Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012, according to research conducted by the BBC. Turnout at these elections was so historically low, the Electoral Commission described it as “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

Is it any wonder? Some commentators blamed the media for not covering the elections effectively. I think the blame should be laid well and truly at the door of the police force itself. If ordinary people can’t even rely on a visit to investigate a minor incident, what hope have we of expecting them to conduct a major investigation effectively?

You might argue that precious resources and manpower could be better employed than in the business of sorting out a broken window. For most of us, however, the only time we have contact with a police officer is in this kind of case. If they can’t get that right, what can they get right? No wonder this forthcoming election is an expensive irrelevance. It’s not an elected commissioner we need, it’s an efficient police force which puts the concerns of people first.

Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for a visit or a call from this elusive officer. The glass has been swept up now. The broken window isn’t even there. There is actually no crime scene to investigate. Except the crime that is a police force which seems incapable of undertaking the business of policing.

Jayne Dowle