Oh, So That Was the Noise at 3 am

In policing as with other professions, innovative ideas may not necessarily be good ones:

A shadowy figure lurking in the garden in the early hours. A rattle on a window latch.

It must be a burglar.

But don't panic too soon and call the police.

That could be them outside.

Officers have begun testing windows and doors at night as part of a campaign to increase home security.

If they find one open, they are under orders to knock on the door and drag sleepy residents from their beds and lecture them.

The move is part of an initiative called Operation Golden which aims to slash burglary rates in Macclesfield, Cheshire.

Police say their actions are necessary as almost 40 per cent of all burglars gain access through an unsecured window or door.

But some residents have condemned the plan, saying it could cause alarm and increase the fear of crime, especially among the elderly.

One 82-year-old resident, who did not want to be named, said: 'If they're not careful the police will end up arresting their own officers.

It's going to get very confusing for them. If I got a knock on my door at 1am I'd tell whoever was there where to get off and I wouldn't be polite about it.'

Resident Adrian Dodd, 42, said: 'I think it is preposterous. It is all well and good advising people but you can't come trespassing on property in the dead of night and waking people up. Someone will have a heart attack.

Inspector Gareth Woods, who is heading the operation, said that it would be in effect from 4pm until 2am.

He admitted that some residents will not be happy about the wake-up call, but said: 'If we're told to get lost then that's a risk we take...

'Most reasonable people will say thanks for letting them know and be grateful.'

...Last year a 38-year-old woman from Hove in East Sussex was stunned when she walked into her lounge to find a PCSO clambering through her window. The woman, who did not want to be named, was then given a stern lecture by the officer on home security.

'I thought it was a bit much really, but it did make me think,' she said...
It is understandable that English citizens have concerns about the strategy, but can you imagine police officers in the US trying this?

Once, during my police patrol days, while assigned to the overnight shift, I was dispatched alone to a residential alarm on a busy Saturday morning about 1 am.

I found the street that the house was supposed to be located, but could not find a number matching that of the alarm call.

Representatives from the alarm company were unable to reach anyone associated with the alarm and could provide no more additional information about the house's location.

I was certain that there must have been an address error in the alarm company's system, but I did find one house on the street (away from the others) that did not have a number.

I peeked around the different sides of the house and saw nothing suspicious. I then rang the front doorbell and knocked persistently, but heard no sounds.

I remembered seeing a car that was parked inside a chain-link fence in the rear of the house.

Impatient and not thinking tactically, I double checked the fence for dogs.

Satisfied I was not going to be eaten by a family mauler, I opened the back gate, and walked through--passing near a row of windows and a sliding glass door so that I could read the license tag on the vehicle (my hope was to check the license plate though our computers and then determine if this was the correct address for the alarm or not).

Before I stopped moving, a motion detector floodlight suddenly activated in the yard and lit me up like soloist at the Metropolitan Opera.

I turned toward the house and now could clearly see a mom pointing a solid black 9 mm Beretta handgun at me through the windows. Her teen daughters squeezed in close behind her.

Mom's hands were shaking.

Using up several of my nine lives that evening, I was fortunate that she did not shoot me.

We all had a laugh about the misunderstanding (ok, mine was a nervous laugh).

It turned out, she did not own an alarm, and obviously thought I was trying to break-into her home.

How does this relate to police in the UK yanking on house windows at night?

If the "police pretending to be burglars" strategy was tried in the States, officers would be dodging bullets, ducking under the swings of ball bats, and otherwise be actively engaged in lots of fisticuffs with scared (and rightfully so) homeowners trying to defend themselves.

Police executives here would have much more opposition to such a policy than just disgruntled residents angry about being summoned to the front door during the early morning hours.


I first saw this story on this site, and the window image is from here.


Sue said...

I can think of several issues the police in the US would encounter if they tried that besides our right to bear arms. Noise ordinances, trespassing laws, right to privacy, as well as the fact that not securing your home (as far as I know) isn't illegal, so calling people out for it is a bit of a tricky subject.

Elena said...

Having had criminals try to enter our house in the wee hours of the morning, I don't think this is such a great idea. If anyone tried to enter my house at that time through a window they'd be greeted by more than just scared residents.

Helen Ginger said...

That is not a good idea around here. Lordy, someone would get shot. In Texas, people have guns.

Straight From Hel

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

Some kid in our neighrborhood set off a pipe bomb across the street. Police knocked on our door at midnight and I freaked out just by the doorbell! Glad you were okay.

Elana Johnson said...

I totally agree. Scary! I don't have a gun, but like Helen, in Texas...

JennyMac said...

I concur..the US could not implement this successfully and I cant argue they should. If I was an officer I cant imagine agreeing to the risk.

suzicate said...

Not a good idea in the US.

J. J in Phila said...

In Pennsylvania boroughs (the generally smaller types of municipalities) the elected borough mayor is statutorily in charge of the police department.

In Cambria County in the mid 1980's one mayor liked to go out on police calls, including one at night for a prowler. He responded with the first unit. The second until showed up while the mayor was "helping" look for the prowler.

The second unit officer saw the nonuniformed mayor in a dark and yelled "Freeze."

The mayor, with his hands in from of him, in the darkness, spun around, presumably to say, "I'm the mayor," and was promptly shot in the stomach by the second unit officer, who didn't recognized the mayor and thought he was holding a gun.

The officer was charged, but charges were dismissed after the mayor, now mostly recovered, testified to his own actions.

On the up side, the mayor no longer went on police calls. I believe the officer was retained.

When I was holding office, I did occasionally ride with the police on patrol, but I tried to stay out of the way.

Tamika: said...

This would never fly in the United States! At least I pray not!

It would be dangerous for the officer and the resident. I can't think of a more horrific idea.

Thanks for sharing this. My mouth will probably be hanging open for a few more minutes.

Natalie said...

You make a really good point! In our small community the officers check the businesses in town to see if they're unlocked and call up the owner if are, which has worked nicely.

In my opinion though, it's only a matter of time before residents became desensitized into thinking that ALL outside noises are caused by the police and wouldn't know how to act if a real intruder tried to get into their home. Like fire alarms; everyone thinks it's just a drill.

kathryn said...

So, are you saying that we US citizens are more likely to shoot first and ask questions later??

I don't know...it seems to me that if you're gonna try and enter someone's home in the wee hours, you're pretty much asking for it.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I am so grateful nothing bad happened to you!

As to Sussex, I read the Police Inspector blog by Inspector Gadget, and the government is cutting the police off there at the knees. I am appalled at each new installment of the whack over there.

Have a great weekend!

Your always-interested reader,
Ann T.

Audrey Allure said...

Haha, I can't imagine that happening here in the US.

Eternally Distracted said...

Hmmm, not sure if this is a good or bad idea... mind you, there are no guns in this neck of the woods... no legal ones anyway.

Nuttgill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jodeeluna said...

You had me completely captivated! Maybe you already have a section like this on your blog, but if not, I would love to read posts about the "How To's" of increasing your home's security. There have been 5 home invasions on my street in the past year and some pretty scary stories told. I installed a cellular transmission security system because in one of the invasions, the intruders cut the phone lines disabling the alarm. Ironically, this occured next door to the neighborhood watch captain who just thought his neighbors were home moving things. How sad that we have to live like this? Your photo is fantastic and the the blog content fascinating!

Jayne said...

The sad fact is that we read of home owners here in the UK calling the police during or after burglaries and no one turns up. I've read of one chap in Bristol who was burglarised so often that the police actually said there was no point in coming out because there was, in reality, nothing they could do to help.

The police here are terribly overstretched - caught up in endless paperwork that has to be completed for even the most minor of incidents. PCSOs are sometimes facetiously referred to as 'Hobby Bobbies' because they're not 'real' Bobbies (police) but members of the public who, I believe, receive only very basic training. I personally wouldn't be happy about a real policeman entering my home, let alone another member of the public. I'd much rather we forgot about all this bureaucratic paperwork that has so swamped our force and released our police men and women back onto the beat where they can actually do their job of work. Just their presence would deter criminals but you simply never see police on foot patrol any more.

Just a comment to 'Nuttgill': I can't comment on anywhere else in Europe but here in the UK gangs are a big problem and both knives and guns are regularly implicated in crimes. I wish it wasn't so, but I'm afraid it is.

Harold said...

What gives your government the right to trespass on your property, assault you by dragging you out of bed, and then pissing on you by lecturing you on the need to keep your windows shuttered?

The stuff that you Brits (god bless and keep you all, I might add) put up with from the authorities just boggles my mind.

Colin Bird said...

I live in a pretty rural but touristy town, so only have a part time police station! Still, anti-social behavoiur is a big problem at pub kick out times!
If only people could change instead of being policed!
Love the photo by the way!

gladwellmusau said...

An interesting read. It might be brilliant for one country but prove tragic for another especially where citizens own guns.


 ALH said...

I agree that this would be a dangerous endeavor in the US. Perhaps simply knocking on residents doors in the daytime and asking to check their window/door security instead so that residents have a choice in the matter?

CL Beck, author: MormonMishaps said...

Nutso! Who ever came up with the idea for police to check windows and doors in the wee hours needed a refresher course in human behavior! Even when citizens are armed with guns, they'll use baseball bats, tennis rackets and whatever they can lay hands on when terrified like that.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the comments all.

@ Sue: Good point. Some of the suggestion to reduce crimes like burglary are simple not applicable here with our freedoms.

@ JJ: Great story.

@ Natalie: Good perspective. I am all for checking businesses for unlocked doors and windows. In my zone, there was a preschool that was burglarized a few times. They were notorious about leaving doors and windows open, and after a few calls at 3 am letting them know about the problems, the owner did a much better job of locking up before leaving.

@ Ann T.: Thanks for the insight.

@ Nuttgill: Those certainly are implementation problems with such a program.

@ Jodeeluna: Sorry that yoru neighborhood is suffering from those break-ins. Cell backups are essential for alarms. Dogs, lighting, nosy neighbors, and firearms (for those who feel comfortable with them) can also be useful as well.

@ Jayne: I appreciate your comment from the European persective.

LadyFi said...

It might be frightening if you thought the cops were burglars... On the other hand, if it keeps down crime, then it might be a good thing? 'although not sure about the trespassing bit...