Donald MacInnes: Alarming minutes fail to interest a fortune-telling copper

In The Red

So there we were, on the couch, watching The Thick of It last Saturday night and discussing how foul-mouthed spin-surgeon Malcolm Tucker would make a great children's TV presenter. The format we agreed for his show would see youngsters writing in and asking Malcolm to make their dreams come true: be that trimming Justin Bieber's fringe or acting as a door-gunner on a Chinook under fire in Helmand province. We would see Malcolm angrily scanning each letter, then glaring into the camera lens and telling each of the kids in turn to sod off. And there would be no badges given out.

Suddenly, our downstairs neighbours' burglar alarm went off. I won't say it was loud, but my wife and I immediately clung to each other like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo in a haunted house. I looked out of the window and saw that the car belonging to our neighbours wasn't in its space.

"I'm going to have to go down and check their house is okay," I said, bravely. My wife let me know she appreciated my gallantry by yawning.

The neighbours' front door was round the side of the house, but access to that was only via a 7ft-high locked wooden door, so my scouting options were limited. Plus it was raining so hard that grapefruit-sized drops were beginning to give me a headache, so I decided to go back inside and call Plod. I did so, but was amazed to learn that the Metropolitan Police doesn't respond to reports of burglar alarms going off.

Sounding like he was filing his nails, the officer said (in that Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, disinterested cadence perfected by coppers everywhere): "Unless you hear glass smashing or see someone running away; unless there is actual evidence of a break-in, we don't attend." I spluttered: "Well, short of a guy in a Lone Ranger mask and a striped jumper running down the street with a sack full of candelabras, what more evidence of a burglary do you need – aside from a burglar alarm going off?"

Surprisingly, this approach didn't seem to work too well with Officer Manicure, so he curtly informed me that the alarm would probably switch itself off in 20 minutes and said goodbye. Sure enough, after exactly 20 minutes, the alarm stopped. We looked at each other. How did he know!? Is the Met employing fortune-tellers now? If so, surely we need to be told. After all, we the public fund their activities! One can only imagine the savings inherent in clairvoyant crime-fighting. No more chasing after villains. Now they could be waiting in the bank for the robbers! Actually, now there's a TV show…

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