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Posts Tagged ‘crime’

On Saturday a dear member of our congregation, who was 91 in December, was mugged as she walked out of an alleyway close to her home. Thankfully, she wasn’t that badly hurt and some brilliant passers-by came to her aid – one chap chased the mugger down the street and was able to get details of a getaway car.

We have some hope that the mugger will be brought to justice – the police were able to follow up on the vehicle, thanks to CCTV footage. Now we’re praying for our friend’s recovery and for wisdom and enough evidence for the police.

And then yesterday morning the Vicar reports that our school was broken into AGAIN this weekend. This time they got into the office, although we’re not sure if anything was taken this time. Our site manager was talking about getting CCTV cameras in after last week’s break-in. Alas, I don’t think he’d managed to install them before the weekend.

I wonder if January, when people are feeling the pinch after splurging money at Christmas, is a peak time for crime? There certainly seems to be a wave of it here in the parish just now. Mind you, there was plenty of crime before Christmas too – typing our postcode into police.uk makes for depressing reading. In November there were 5 burglaries within about 200yds of our front door. Perhaps this is contributing to the rising numbers we’ve been seeing at church of late – seeing wickedness so close up can make you wonder about who’s in charge of the world and long for God’s justice.

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We had some excitement in the parish today – a ‘suspicious package’ was found in a house just round the corner that was being raided for drugs. Residents in houses close to the raided property were evacuated, and we were asked if we could accommodate them in the church hall.

So we were there with the teapots and some biscuits, on and off all morning, whilst we all speculated about what was happening. I quite enjoyed myself – particularly because I met a couple of neighbours that we’d not previously had the chance to speak to. It was a bit of a pain for them, though – one friend was without her diabetic medication, another lady had her two young children with her, but not their toys, people needed to get their cars to get to work. Most folk took the opportunity to go shopping in town but returned later to hang around and chat at the end of the street or pop into the hall for more refreshments.

Finally, after about 31/2 hours, we were told that people could go home. I stayed behind in the hall to tidy up and the local PCSO and his Sergeant came and chatted. Turns out the suspicious package wasn’t Semtex, as had been suspected, but something to do with with preparation of drugs. They seized cannabis wraps from the property and made three arrests. More drug dealing – the house next door to that one was raided a few weeks ago and seizures made for the same thing. I reckon you could probably raid a couple of houses on every street in this parish and find evidence of drug use or dealing.

The police were quite cheery, as these arrests were made on top of two successful operations locally earlier this week. A house just opposite the church was raided and found to contain a stolen motorbike and 27 stolen bicycles. And only last night they carried out some checks with immigration officials. They found illegal immigrants, but also some dodgy vehicles that were being stripped down, including a vintage Rolls and a BMW that had been nicked from Police HQ.

So a good week for clamping down on crime – well done to our local coppers. It does make you wonder what’s happening behind closed doors when the police aren’t calling. And makes us pray for this broken parish all the more.

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Good news: the slow wheels of insurance, diocesan tender bidding and the sourcing of reclaimed stones have turned and this week we have a hard-working builder in our garden. He is repairing the wall that was stripped of its coping stones by an early morning thief back in October.

Interestingly, sourcing the stones was a bit of a challenge – they couldn’t find enough stones of the right dimensions. Then the builders came across a rather quirky local reclamation yard. The yard wanted to be paid only in cash and wouldn’t invoice the builders in the normal way of companies.

Recently I saw one of the millions of reality police shows on telly, about the team tracking down metal thieves, who found BT and Network Rail cabling in a yard. But only because it was labelled as such. How does a reclamation yard check the origins of the reclaimed items they buy? Noone labels their bricks or paving slabs. What chance that the coping stones going back on our wall came from there in the first place? Not entirely unlikely I’d hazard.

We’re hoping to keep these stones and thankfully, those laid last night stayed there until the mortar had set so they’ll be much more difficult to remove than the ones we lost. Our wall rebuilder told us of another vicar he has done some work for. This chap was so fed up of coping stones being stolen from his wall that he got the builders to take a grinder to them, defacing them so that they wouldn’t be worth anything at a reclamation yard. I have to say, we are seriously considering that option now, to save us from any possible future stolen-coping-stones hassle.

Our wall, the new stones and a well-deserved coffee break

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Now, I don’t want you all to think that I’m cynical, but at the end of last week I saw some laminated sheets tied to some railings just round the corner from us. They were adverts for a local company who supply hydroponic equipment. Hydroponic systems are used for growing tomatoes, but also for growing cannabis plants.

Obviously, it’s completely legal to sell hydroponic systems because they can be used by gardeners growing fruit, vegetables and flowers. But after last week’s tale of the cannabis factory raided locally, and very regular stories in our local rag on the same subject, I thought it a little unlikely that they were hoping to get the majority of their trade from allotment holders.

Tomatoes are the best things to grow

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Some of the things that I’ve come across or heard in the last few days:

  • A granny was robbed of gold necklace after she collected her grandchild from our school nursery. Lunchtime yesterday.
  • A friend’s business was burgled a few days ago. When police came round to look at the break-in they smelt something suspicious. They raided the unit next door and found a cannabis factory.
  • 2 men (dad and an uncle?) were taking a young lad, maybe six years old, to the ice-cream van, just as school was out and streams of kids were passing and queuing. They were dressed in t-shirts bearing what I have found are sometimes called ‘comedy‘ phrases. I wasn’t very amused myself. I don’t shop at Blue Inc, or I’d be boycotting their business.
  • A kid who thought that ‘the taxpayer’ would pay for our broken windows, so it wasn’t such a big issue after all.

And these are just the stories that I can tell in public. The evil and brokenness around us here can sometimes be heartbreaking. Despite that, we are encouraged regularly. This week some kind builders have been supplying us with wooden pallets (for burning and for storing logs on) and some tree surgeons gave us a tree that they’d been chopping down. Vicarage warmth is assured for next winter.

Like every week at the Vicarage, it’s been a fair old mix, but perhaps more of a mix than most people enjoy. It makes me remember that old hymn and resolve to employ my heart and tongue as I should.

Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.

Nahum Tate and Nicholas Brady

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Thankfully, since police installed a CCTV camera opposite the church yard a few months ago, our local druggies have been getting their supplies elsewhere. It got very frustrating last summer, with drug deals taking place almost daily under our noses. The police had a few near misses with catching the dealers, too.

On one occasion I had called 999 and the cops came, but it wasn’t our normal team, who happened to be out at a training day. The police car gave chase to the dealer, who they think had a large quantity of drugs on him. But the dealer got away and since it wasn’t the local team chasing, they weren’t able to identify who was driving. Alas.

The camera was up for about six months, I guess. It’s gone now, but the dealing hasn’t returned in earnest. But we still know that the dealers live in the parish, and occasional drug deals are spotted here and there. But when they happen, people don’t always report it. They don’t see any immediate effects and that can be discouraging. We’re glad we’re (mostly) free of drug dealing, but knowing that the dealers are still plying their trade elsewhere makes people doubt the strength of the police and the reality of justice.

West Midlands Police Superintendent (he’s recently been promoted) Mark Payne has a blog where he explains why things look so slow when people are looking for justice. He repeats what we heard from the local police sergeant at our neighbourhood forum the other week: small pieces of information are important, even if it looks like nothing is happening.

So for now, I’m waiting for the police to put it all together, reporting everything (and encouraging others to do the same) and praying for God’s justice to come quickly.

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Well, that’s made for a great Saturday. The Vicar was outside chatting with a kind neighbour who has been repairing our Victorian garden wall. The neighbour remarked that he’d have to get on with putting the coping stones back on the top. He’d seen that the stones had disappeared a couple of days ago and had assumed that the Vicar had taken them off since they were loose. Alas not. Someone has been and taken them! So now about half our wall looks strangely naked.

So if anyone offers you a load of cheap Staffordshire blue coping stones, let me know. At £40/m, we reckon they’ve stolen about a thousand pounds worth.

Just a small section of our poor wall

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