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Holmes or Poirot

What fun!  We’re all going to get the chance to play detectives. 

I’ve always fancied myself as a sleuth.  Who shall I be, I wonder?  Holmes or Poirot?  Maigret or Colombo?  I’ll have to give the question some thought. 

One thing I do know, I don’t want to be Clousseau.

“What on earth is he talking about?” I hear you muttering. 

Well, I’m responding, as all responsible citizens should, to the news that many police forces in Britain are urging victims of certain high-volume crimes to conduct their own investigations.  This was revealed in a recent survey conducted by a police watchdog called Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies.  (Try saying that ten times after a few glasses of Chardonnay.)  

It seems that some police officers, after being called out to crimes such as car break-ins, criminal damage, and non-residential burglaries (whatever they are) have taken to telling the victims to get on the case themselves; for example, by examining the crime scene for clues, or talking to neighbours who just may have seen or heard something. 

The HMIC, I think it’s fair to mention, does not approve of this approach, which it finds “surprising and a matter of material concern” and an “inversion of responsibility”.  What spoilsports – just as I was looking forward to spending an evening putting my powers of deduction to the test by watching the entire box-set of Sherlock.

I think I’ll do it anyway, just to be prepared. 

Especially as I may already be on the Old Bill’s ‘two-strikes-and-your-out’ list, for needlessly calling them out to the house in response to false alarms.  A formal letter rapping my knuckles came a few weeks ago, from a ‘crime prevention officer’ at Surrey Police.  I think her name was Cressida.  The gist of the missive was that Surrey Police had better things to do than waste their time on my careless behaviour.  

Perhaps Cressida’s title ought to be changed to ‘crime enhancement officer’.

But, getting back to this sleuthing business, what I need now is a few tips on how to handle my neighbours when I knock on the door and tell them I’m there to interrogate them.  Right now, the only guidance I have is from those television shows.  

How, for example, do I approach Mrs. Higgins next door in the proper manner?  I think I’ve refined my methodology.

How’s this for a start?

“Good evening Mrs. Higgins …. I’m, er, terribly sorry to bother you, but there’s been a robbery and I need to ask you a few questions …. Yes, I’m aware it’s three o’clock in the morning, Mrs. Higgins …. But I’m sure you realise that this is something that has to be done before the trail goes cold …. So if you’ll kindly allow me in for a moment, I’m sure I’ll be able to clear up a few points …. No, of course I haven’t called the police …. I’m acting on their advice, you see …..Now, can you tell me where you were half an hour ago? ….. You were in bed, you say ….  Let me just make a note of that …. And did you happen to see or hear anything unusual? …. Yes, I understand that you were asleep, Mrs. Higgins ….. No, Mrs. Higgins, you really don’t need to call the police yourself …. No I haven’t been drinking …. I’m just asking for a little cooperation, here …. Well, since you’re clearly under a bit of stress, I think I’ll leave it there for now …. Perhaps I can call on you again in the morning …. Goodnight to you, Mrs. Higgins, and I’m very sorry you feel that way.’’   

Yes, I know, my doorstep manner might need a little refining.  I think I’ll write to Cressida – perhaps she can help.

And, yes, I promise to let you know how it goes.

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