You may recall my posting on 30th March re funding cuts for the police. This followed a report that claimed the police would have to cut frontline services to meet the 24% funding cuts over four years.
You will recall that I was suggesting that ACPO were creaming off income that should be going to the police forces and that there were too many civilian staff employed.
Well this week, the following story appeared in several newspapers. To summarise it, a man and his wife took scrap from a rubbish dump that would otherwise have been destroyed. The police were called. Their response – to send eight police, one helicopter, two dog units and three patrol cars. Overkill perhaps? Well, sometimes police over react to situations possibly as a result of lack of information at the time of despatching the officers.
This case appears to be different. Read the statement from Superintendent Thompson which are underlined and in bold below. He seems to think it is a sensible and appropriate response.
Operation overkill: £20,000, eight police, one helicopter, two dog units and three patrol cars to trap pair who stole 47p of scrap
It claims to have been hit hard by spending cuts, but one constabulary spared no expense in tackling the pilfering of scrap… worth 47p.
Alerted to two salvagers rummaging through a recycling centre, Gloucester Police sent a helicopter, two vans, three patrol cars and two dog units.
The crack squad managed to apprehend Owen Gray and Angela Cubitt, who had helped themselves to a games console and a power drill – with a combined scrap value of 47p.
The pair said they were told the operation, which involved eight officers, had cost £20,000.
Mr Gray, 50, said: ‘I am unemployed, so cannot go out and buy this stuff. I pick up whatever catches my eye and try to fix it. All they do with the stuff at the tip is crush it and burn the plastic.
‘I go around to the tip about once a month looking for things to salvage and fix up.
‘I have recovered television monitors and computers from there before. I know they have to catch criminals and what I did was wrong – but to send eight officers seemed a very over-the-top response.
‘It’s crazy that they sent out so many resources when they’re shouting about how much they need to save. When they let us out, a copper told me it had cost £20,000 to get us nicked and that the items cost only 47p scrap.’
The out-of-work computer engineer was fined £20 while Miss Cubitt, 34, was released without charge. The pair were arrested last month walking home from their visit to the unmanned Hempsted Household Recycling Centre in Gloucester.
The helicopter spotted them first and they were picked up by an officer with dogs at around 10pm.
The were held in a cell overnight before questioning the next day. Mr Gray was allowed to pay £20 to a charity through a scheme that allows officers to deal with small crimes without using the courts.
Whatever it takes: It claims to have been hit hard by spending cuts, but Gloucester Police spared no expense – including sending out a police helicopter – in tackling the pilfering of scrap… worth a measly 47p
Superintendent Gary Thompson defended the arrests.
‘We take reports of crimes in progress very seriously, as the public would expect, and allocate resources based on how many officers are available, the quality of the information received and the area we need to cover,’ he said.
‘I make no apology, least of all to any offenders, for responding seriously to an incident like this and would urge the person responsible to think more about the impact their actions had.
‘In the past, people stealing from tips have been responsible for other burglaries or thefts that have had a great impact on the community.
‘It is important not to downgrade our response based on the location of the crime, or the value of the goods.’
In February it was reported that budget cuts could cost the force more than 350 officers and civilian staff over the next two years. Chief Constable Tony Melville said he hoped to save £8million by trimming management and support costs.
It is a shame that when your home is burgled, it takes 2 – 3 days before an officer attends if at all. Similarly, the number of times the police have no one to send to an on going disturbance or crime in progress. Well, now you know why – the whole of the shift and the force helicopter are dealing with the theft of scrap worth £0.47.
Hopefully those cuts will mean an end to such stupidity, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for it. The stupidity of those in power seems to know no bounds.
Next time you hear the police complaining they can’t cut costs without cutting frontline services, just remember this type of money wasting policing.