Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: the police

Why don't you go catch a burglar? For 50 years or more, it's been the automatic, knee jerk reaction of any errant motorist who's been pulled over by plod.

It's even become a music hall joke, a ritual in the tired old plots of 8pm sit-com. But it's true. Why don't they go and catch burglars? I mean the only reason we drive too quickly is because we want to get home and catch one before he deposits a large turd on our Boukhara rug.

CCTV has driven teenagers out of the city centre, so now they queue outside remote farmhouses, waiting for their turn to defecate on an heirloom. And where are the police?

Well they know you're only after a crime number for insurance purposes so they're about 40 miles away, trimming their moustaches so they'll look good on next week's exciting edition of Police. Stop. Kill.

Today, the police spend all of their resources on JetRangers and sophisticated infra-red cameras so they can get action-packed footage of car-azy motorists. And the Crown Prosecution Service? That's busy sorting out the video rights.

Small wonder then that people are beginning to take the law into their own hands. In France recently, a much-burgled home-owner left a radio on his kitchen table and a note which said. ‘This is not a radio. It is a bomb.'

He came home later to find a burglar spread evenly around his kitchen and was promptly arrested. And now it appears to have happened here with the news that a Norfolk farmer has been charged after two youths were shot in the garden of his house.

Friends say the poor man had been driven to despair by an endless stream of burglaries and that the police weren't interested. Well they wouldn't be. It's hard to see a marketing opportunity in painstaking house-to-house enquiries. It's late-night BBC2 at best. Nah, let's go get another speeder.

"They spend all of their resources on sophisticated infra-red cameras so they can get action-packed footage of car-azy motorists"

Certainly, I'd shoot anyone who broke into my house. Then I'd bury them in the garden and carry on with life as though nothing had happened.

No really, a friend and I once staked out our street in Notting Hill, saying that if we caught the youth who'd been breaking into our cars, we'd chain him up in a shed and invite other victims of car crime round to spend some time with him. And we meant it.

Of course, this has to be against the law. You can't condone vigilantes in a civilised society. If you let home-owners shoot intruders willy-nilly, burglars will tool up to meet the threat. Then, you'd arm the police, who'd shoot motorists for ratings and it would all be like America. We might even end up with the wide-mouthed frog as President.

So what's to be done? The police no longer feature. I know these days, it says they're ‘Fighting Crime. Slashing Fear. Filming Disorder,' on the side of their cars, but that's just a slogan to inspire Bruce Willis action from the men.

The reality is that in the countryside, one policeman has to cover more than 200 square miles - impossible when his superiors demand 35 motorists a night, DVD footage and format rights.

We can't expect tougher sentences for the tiny minority that are caught either, because the prisons are full of speeders and people who've shot burglars. And all the while, IslingTony is being lobbied by inner-city counsellors who plead for leniency.

So the burglars who are daft enough make faces in front of CCTV cameras end up with 10 minutes of community service. Little deterrent for someone who's being driven out of his mind by an all-consuming need for heroin.

There's the nub of the problem. Eighty per cent of all crime is drug- related. No-one breaks into your house because they need funds for music lessons. They break in because they need some smack 'n' crack.

And I'm sorry but we've got to give it to them. Legalising drugs will bring the price down and cheaper drugs will mean less crime. It is as simple as that. And to argue that we'll all become junkies as a result is nonsense. You can buy drink but we're not all alcoholics.

The police have lost the war on crime because they've been diverted by the lure of fame and fortune on television. And we aren't allowed to blow the little sods to Kingdom Come, so let's see the root cause on sale in 24-hour filling stations. Alongside the cigarettes.

You could even tax them. This would surely generate enough to get the police out of their Volvos and into something a little more big-screen friendly.

But until this happens, I'm afraid, there's a better-than-evens chance that you'll come home one night to find a burglar peeing into your grandfather clock. And all you're allowed to do is offer him some buns.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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