I was interested to read Inspector Gadgets comment yesterday about centralised police call taking, it took me back to when I had my business, I thought it was detrimental to the town when the facility for the public to be able to speak to the local police station was taken away; the people answering the phone just had so much local knowledge.
I suppose this tale must be about 9 years old now (things are always older than you think) just before CCTV came to town; so I best file it as a sepia tale.
I owned a shop and I had a fantastic manager, called Lucy she was (is) totally honest and trust worthy, just the sort of person you want looking after your till. She also expects this of everyone else as well (also a great attribute for an employee to have.)
At that time it was a common scam for fraudsters to come into the shop, buy a card or a £1.95 bunch of spray carnations, tender a forged £20 note at the till, be given £18:05 in ‘real money’ as change and then scarper leaving the shop with a duff £20.
We were pretty good at spotting this, it particularly annoyed us because, it was crooks from the cities that used to try this on and we didn’t like being taken for ‘country bumpkins.’
One day some one managed to slip a ‘good’ fake past Lucy, but something made her open the till and do a double take on the £20 and we all agreed, it was a convincing fake, but a fake never the less, so we rang the local police station on our nice little five figure phone number (no need for 999 we felt) gave the details and then Lucy and I went out into the street to see if we could see the fraudster. We met on the street corner a PC and the young traffic warden Gary, (rule number one of retail; always maintain excellent relations with traffic wardens and refuse collectors, both have the capacity to bring your business to a grinding halt.)
We decided to split up and see if we could spot the crook; moments latter Lucy was by my side ‘I’ve found him!’
‘He’s outside Woolworths’ we set off in the direction of Woollies, with me ringing the police as we go. I expected Lucy to do a ‘don’t look now but that’s him over there’ sort of manoeuvre, but instead she bowled straight up to him (she was very cross, she didn’t like being conned one little bit) reaching up (he was tall she is small) she wagged her finger in his face, ‘It was you wasn’t it you just gave me a fake £20!’
For me the world froze, I thought she was going to get a punch in the face or a knife in the ribs, but the man spun on his heels and legged it up the street. Lucy set off after him, in my hand my mobile is saying ‘Hello, police, can I help?’ So with me running behind trying to keep up and communicate to the police at the same time the dialogue went along the lines of ‘He going past the Boot’s, gasp, ‘now he’s by the Job Centre’, wheeze ‘he’s just gone past Iceland’ pant. ‘Don’t worry luv we are on or way’ was the calm reply; in the distance I could here sirens.
Coming the opposite direction up the street is Gary the traffic warden, Lucy is shouting ‘It’s him; stop him!’ Arms out and jumping from left to right like a goal keeper Gary does his best to try and fell the thief, but the thief dodges past him (had this incident taken place later in the day, when the big guys from quarries or the even bigger hauliers were in town, we would have had no trouble getting him felled (as it was the street was full of little old ladies in beige coats who seemed to arrive every by the coach load every Wednesday afternoon and bought nothing but loo rolls from the pound shop, but you would have thought they could have tripped him up with their walking sticks.)
Lucy gave up her chase at the roundabout but Gary kept on through the park, across the river and up in to the council estate, where sadly he lost him. (We later heard that he conned a little old lady into getting him a taxi because he had ‘a heart condition’ and ‘needed to get home to his medicine.’) Back at the shop the PC took down the details from us, over his radio we could hear the panting and gasping Gary being asked if he need a patrol car to be sent to take him back to the station.
A few months later Gary left his job as traffic warden as signed up a police officer and as far as I know he is chasing baddies to this day!