I'm back in the days of the good old Proactive Unit in Dystopia - a sergeant who had the luxury of patrolling with his officers and laying hands on criminals. We're tasked with arresting a Billy Burglar whose DNA has come back on a docket for an aggravated burglary. It was quite a nasty burglary too. Billy was found in the living room by the elderly victim and delivered a hit to the victim's head with a cosh. That wasn't the nasty bit, however. This elderly gentleman was a veteran of the Kenyan War against the Mau Mau. A hard nut, who later recounted the stories of the battles he fought. The veteran, after being hit, responded with a crack on Billy's head with his walking stick. Billy's blood was everywhere - a SOCO's dream - and he was soon marked as a wanted man.
We'd gone to Billy's address on two prior occassions. The first was at the usual warrant-enquiry time of 6 am. It's a good time to catch a Billy. Either they're in a drug induced sleep after spending the night burglarising homes to pay for their crack cocaine, or they're resting ready to wake at 10am in order to burglarise houses when decent people are at work. This time, there was no reply to our repeated knocking and gentle pushes against his door. I looked at his pre-pay electricity metre and saw that there was about 68 pence left. I lodged this in my memory in the knowledge we'd try again the following day.
Second try - again there is no response from Billy's address. We try to look through the curtains, but can't see a thing. I know Billy's inside. I can feel it. As we're leaving, I remember the electricity metre reading. I open the box and lo and behold, it now has over £20 in credit. Billy is in there, but without our seeing signs of life to suggest he is, we decide against forcing the door to search the premises. If he's not there, he'll know we're onto him and may go underground at a friend's address. We'd also have to spend at least an hour waiting for the boarding-up services to arrive, and we've other ne'er-do-wells to catch that day.
This requires a bit of cunning. Billy thinks he's smart, but he's not. We've dealt with many such low-lifes as him before, and we've caught the lot of them. Back at the station we resort to a tried and tested technique...
One of my officers puts on the luminous Royal Mail jacket and blue baseball cap, and grabs a clip board. He's attached an envelope to it. The plan is self-evident. He'll knock on Billy's door, Billy will see the trademark jacket, will ask what he wants, then open the door to sign for the letter. At that point we'll have our man.
This is what happens, it all goes exactly to plan. My officers handcuff Billy in his hallway and I go outside to radio for a van to take him back to the station. Suddenly I hear Billy shouting and screaming. What the hell is he trying to do? He's handcuffed. There's no way he can escape. I go inside and start calming Billy down.
"What the hell's wrong with you Billy?"
"Your f*cking officer, he's taking the p*ss".
I look at my officer who is in fits of laughter.
"What's going on?"
"Sarge, he asked what's inside the letter, so I showed him."
I see the scrumpled piece of paper on the floor and pick it up. I open it to read what my officer has written.
Hobbesllian Footnote: I feel the need to point out that I severley chastised the officer for displaying his wholly unprofessional attitude towards Billy Burglar. It is imperative that we respect the rights of individuals who break into people's homes and are quite prepared to assault the elderly residents, having no regard to the injury this may cause.