It’s a day when I have got to pop over the road during my lunch break to get a sandwich.
As I enter the shop and start browsing through the array of packaged sandwiches and other confectionery available in the £3 meal deal, I feel like I’m being watched. I feel uncomfortable and slightly nervous. I make a fleeting glance over my shoulder, casually so that it doesn’t look shifty which would arouse any further suspicion. It’s a Policeman. I continue browsing.
Why would he be watching me? I don’t look particularly suspicious in my standard issue company fleece, balding head and spectacles. But then I suppose we shouldn’t always trust the vicious stereotypes. What does a murderer look like? He can take the guise of any shape or form that we find in society these days. Look at the little old lady going to bingo. What’s in her bag? Chloroform and some rope? Who knows?
I suppose the same could be said for shoplifters. Indeed, this Policeman appears to be streetwise and clued up. He knows that anybody could be a shoplifter and he’s not taking any chances. That’s fair enough. I don’t blame him watching me. Although, I do have to question how it can be that in light of the lack of recruitment in the Police force and the dwindling number of Police patrolling the streets, that a valuable resource can be utilised in a Co-op supermarket to watch the sandwiches. Perhaps there has been an increase in cheese and tomato sandwich thefts in the area. This Policeman is merely on a stakeout.
I make my selection and turn to head towards the checkout. It is then I am face to face with this Police Officer. He’s still staring. But he doesn’t blink. He’s also pretty slim. In fact he’s very slim, almost waif like. He’s sandwiched between the photocopier and some half price cleaning fluids. I could say anything to him. Call him anything, flick the bird, even run out of the shop with my £3 feast. Why? Because the Policeman, is actually just a cardboard cut out.
I took a picture.
It took less than a second of looking at him to realise he was fake. So I wonder how effective it is to the would be shoplifter? Do they really think that there’s an actual real Police Officer in the shop? Does it really convince people? I doubt it. It might be a good quality cardboard cut out but still, it doesn’t move! Or blink, or chase you as you run out with a sausage roll, a Yazoo milkshake and a Daily Mail. This cardboard law enforcement is a new low in crime fighting if you ask me.
It is unfortunate that we live at a time when the public services are taking a hit along with everyone else during this economic crisis. As there are less police on the streets they have previously employed the help of Community Support Officers or PCSO’s. These PCSO’s look very similar to police. They have the word Police emblazoned over their fluorescent vests and from a distance, they could be mistakenly identified as a Police Officer but other than that, they don’t actually have any powers of arrest. I’ve heard them referred to as “Plastic Policemen.” The ones who I’ve seen patrol the streets of Birmingham don’t look like they would be very good at chasing a shoplifter or mugger seemingly being more accustomed to chasing a burger van. I’m sure there are good ones out there too! I must say that before I have a wave of slightly obese PCSO’s waving their truncheonless fists in the air, in fluorescent vests, crossing our moat, hurling their walky talkies at the gates of Chateau Grump!
I view the PCSO’s as Prefects of the street. If you don’t know what a Prefect is, allow me to explain. At secondary School in the 5th year, I was chosen to be a Prefect. My Grumpy Parents were so proud. We were basically a law enforcement agency at school. We were the step between the common pupil and the teaching staff. But much like PCSO’s, we also had no powers of arrest. No powers of anything. Just a yellow badge.
Although it had the benefits of not having to queue for the school bus at home time and also not having to queue for the canteen, we had to patrol the school corridors twice a week for half the lunch time and prevent pupils from taking a short cut through the school building. It was common to shout to the younger pupils, “Stop Running!” ….. as they continued to run past. If we managed to apprehend the offending student it would usually end up with us demanding their name; a refusal to give their name; us trying to convince them to give us their name; continued resistance from the offending pupil; us realising that we actually have no powers to do anything and so letting them go with an empty threat of “Trouble” if they were caught again.
But as much as I question the actual powers that a PCSO has, I guess it’s better than nothing. If they can help give directions to a tourist, great. If they deter a potential mugging from taking place, even better. It’s still a hell of a lot better than a cardboard cut out. At least a PCSO can block a doorway or something.
But it would seem that the cardboard cut out is nothing new. They even have cardboard cut out Police cars to prevent speeding.
There are even other cardboard cut outs available such as this one in another supermarket. I might start collecting them.
I might be missing a trick here regarding cardboard cut outs. Look on Amazon and you might find cardboard cut outs to assist with sports training.
Along the lines of cardboard crime prevention, I’ve decided to embrace the idea and so to prevent Chateau Grump being burgled I’ve managed to purchase a cardboard cut out very cheaply from a former slimmer of the year.
I call her Janice and she stands in front of the front door, staring out at the Dudley metropolis all night or whenever we spend some time away from Chateau Grump. Janice just stands there in her white T-shirt holding a white bag that was probably containing a couple of cans of Skol lager and is clearly intimidating for any would be burglar who much like the supermarket cardboard law enforcement, is tricked into thinking that the paper thin, unblinking, static cut out is a real person.
A couple of days later, again I am in the supermarket across the street but there is no sign of the “Officer” I had bumped into previously. It was only when I left that I spotted he had moved to Pets At Home, three doors down. Clearly, he patrols the area.