Thursday, 12 December 2013
The Internet. CCTV. ANPR. I’ve seen the movies and I know the resources at the police’s disposal to track the waking (and sleeping) moments of each and every one of us. On a whim they can download files showing our every movement with transcripts of every telephone call or face to face conversation. Short of being individually tagged (and who says we’re not?) our lives are an open book to the authorities. Every email we send, every penny we earn, every journey we make. And if Hollywood were to be believed they can rain down pinpoint-accurate, laser-assisted smart bombs to take us out at will, guided by unerringly accurate three-dimensional computer representations of every building in the land. There is no hiding place.
Except for a master criminal with the resources, agility and intellectual prowess to circumvent their sophisticated weaponry nobody is immune to the surveillance state; we could be under the microscope at any – or all – times. Which is why I was a little concerned, a few weeks ago, to be told by my elderly neighbours that police had been banging on my door several times over a weekend while I was away. The Thought Squad! Of course, they must follow me on Twitter and read my blog. Damn; I thought that was a secret!
But no, I was wrong; it wasn’t me they were after, but the crafty, aforementioned and cranially equipped master criminal. Some things come back to haunt you. In this case it was the son of my former tenant, whose exploits I wrote about over a year ago - here. They moved out – errant tenant and her troublesome son – in October last year, after which I moved back in and set about eradicating their spoor for good. Electoral roll, council tax, utilities, etc… all back in my name and mine alone.
I never had a forwarding address for the tenants, but given that they have lived their entire lives dependent on state handouts and everybody around here knows the family I could probably find out where they live with a couple of enquiries. But apparently not the police, because I was visited twice, about three weeks ago. The first time was one evening when two cars and three coppers showed, hammered impatiently on the door and quite brusquely demanded to know the whereabouts of the lad. They were reluctant to accept that I didn’t know.
Then a couple of days later – a nice cop this time - who seemed to want to know much more about me than the kid they were apparently expending so many resources on finding. And then yesterday, I learned from my neighbours that plain clothed police had staked out the row of houses last weekend (when I was away again) and even climbed over my back fence (I assumed it was the wind that had broken the panel) to try the back door. After several hours my neighbour had challenged the surly character sitting on the wall opposite and he had reluctantly admitted his mission and that she’d broken his cover as unknown-bloke-sitting-on-a-wall-for-several-hours-in-a-not-suspicious-way-at-all. They must spend DAYS working on their legends.
“Well, he’s not in, next door, you know” said Margaret.
“Oh?” replied the seasoned detective, “and how would YOU know?”
“Well...” replied Margaret, “his car’s not there.”
I have no idea if they’ve found him yet. I don’t know, nor do I want to know what he’s done. He’s a fourteen year old kid whose greatest feat of spy craft is probably to never spell his relatively simple name the same way twice; he’s a little twat, not a criminal mastermind. Yet despite that, despite the fact he lives in a council house and is supported by welfare and has ‘special educational needs’ – presumably the need never to attend school - and is regularly in one sort of trouble or another, he has managed to evade capture by school, social worker, probation officer and the long arm of the law for at least fourteen months.
So, there you are, there’s my little story of Keystone Koppery. I dread to think how much that would have cost in police time and resources yet how revealing it is of our supposedly advanced world? How is it that people can be kept their entire lives on welfare yet nobody knows where they are? Or is it that inter-agency cooperation just doesn’t work; surely the police could just have asked the local authority? Or, given the several visits to my house, asked each other?
So, next time you hear news reports of the number of claimants there are, or the number of illegal immigrants in the country, or read about some enormous fraudulent welfare scam and shake your head, wondering how it could happen… Or listen to the apologists who say how hard it is to get benefits without jumping through a thousand hoops and how hard it is to live on them and nobody chooses to do so… Or one side says they will help industry and another side says they will help the consumer and yet another side says they will stop global warming, the advance of the EU, the tide of immigration, the cost of living, etc, just bear one thing in mind.
Here's looking at you, kid...
If the combined might of the police, the courts, social services and the local authority can’t track down a thinking-impaired little shit, what is the possibility that anything you ever hear from on high is even remotely based on fact, rather than partisan fiction? Now have a lovely day and watch out for them spy cameras.