“Look out mate – they’re going in guns blazing today!” With that warning I found myself roughly shoved out of the way as a Honda Accord screamed across the village green and crashed through the already boarded up window of the local shop. As I watched in incredulity from behind the cover of the war memorial, two figures wearing balaclavas and holding shotguns, eased themselves from the front seats of the vehicle and ambled into the shop, one of them pulling a shopping bag on wheels. Through the smashed window I saw them fire their guns into the ceiling, before filling the shopping trolley with tinned goods and money from the till. Finally, they hobbled back to the Honda, reversed it out of the wrecked shop and drove off at twenty miles an hour. “That’s the third time the shop’s been done over this week, and the ninth this month,” explained my rescuer, who introduced himself as local resident Leon Probisher. “They don’t even bother replacing the glass any more, they just nail up new boards to cover the damage! The most amazing thing is that it seems to be a different set of robbers every time – some of them don’t even bother ram raiding the shop, they just walk in, then make their getaway on the local bus!” Even more amazingly, these robberies are just one of a whole series of crimes which have made this sleepy West Sussex village Britain’s crime capital – with twenty per cent more crimes per head than any inner-city area. But just what had sparked this unprecedented rural crime wave – one which the police seemed powerless to stop – was what I, John Pilchard, chief investigative reporter for The Sleaze, was aiming to get to the bottom of when I arrived in Crapstone Turdis that morning.
“It all kicked off after they closed the local police station and replaced it with that mobile one which comes here once a month,” Probisher told me as we sat on a bench facing the green. “They reckoned there wasn’t enough crime here to justify having a sergeant and four full-time officers based here. Of course, everyone complained at the time, but West Sussex Constabulary said that with government spending cuts eroding their budget they had to deploy their resources where they were most needed. Overnight we became Britain’s crime capital, but still the buggers wouldn’t reopen the police station!” Indeed, the lack of police response seemed remarkable and I mentioned to my companion my surprise that the police still hadn’t responded to the robbery we had witnessed, despite half an hour having passed. He responded that the slow response time was part of the police’s new crime strategy. “They reckon that if they respond too quickly to these crimes, it will just encourage the buggers to commit more,” he claimed. “They say it’s all down to attention-seeking. Mind you, I reckon it might have something to do with the fact that someone set fire to that caravan they called a mobile police station last month, when they set it up here for a few days as a deterrent. Then someone had all the wheels off of the area car and left it up on bricks a couple of weeks ago when they were responding to reports of a mass brawl at the tea rooms.” Perplexed by this bizarre stand off between police and law-breakers, I decided to speak to some local victims of the crime wave. However, before I could even leave the bench, I found myself witnessing yet another crime, as a figure wearing a raincoat and a David Cameron mask limped across the green with the aid of a walking frame, stopped in front of the bench and exposed himself, before limping off again.
“He does that every day. He’ll be pleased to have had an audience today – usually it’s just a couple of squirrels and the dogs tied up outside the shop who see his wizened genitalia,” the local vicar, Reverend Arnold Chubbly, told me over a cup of tea in the vicarage. “He’s one of our contingent of sex offenders. None of them are hardcore, of course – no rapists, child molesters, or anything like that – just a few geriatric flashers, an underwear thief and a couple of hit-and-run bottom pinchers who usually lurk around the bus stop. It’s all quite harmless – like most of the crime here.” I put it to the Reverend that I was somewhat surprised to hear him describe the crime wave as being ‘harmless’. Particularly as he himself had been a victim when his own church fete had been disrupted by a riot, which saw a hooded gang running amok, looting several stalls, burning the tombola and stealing the prizes for the grand draw, (which included a leg of mutton and a six bottles of the verger’s homemade wine). “Yes, but there was no real harm done, and no violence. Unless you count that incident when the gang of rioters started throwing the entries in the cake competition at people – I know Mrs Fotheringford was quite upset to have her cream horns squeezed like that,” he replied. “What you have to realise is that the crimes being committed in this village aren’t simply random and spontaneous outbreaks of criminality – they are all part of a carefully orchestrated campaign!”
Naturally, I was astounded by the vicar’s revelation that Crapstone Turdis’ crime wave was apparently gang-related. I was even more astounded when the Reverend Chubbly told me that he could arrange a meeting with the mastermind behind the rural crime campaign. An hour later I found myself behind the cricket pavilion, speaking to a stooping, hooded figure with a walking stick. “We like to look upon this crime wave as a community project, the ‘Big Society’ in action,” he explained. “How could we just stand by and watch our community destroyed by government cuts? The police station was essential to our well-being. How else can we sleep soundly in our beds, if we don’t know that our local police officers are out on the streets protecting us from the scourge of youths playing loud music after six o’clock and motorists dropping litter? Clearly, the only way we could save the police station was by committing more crimes, so that its continued existence could be justified.” Incredibly, if I was to believe my elderly informant, the entire adult population of Crapstone Turdis was behind the crime wave.
However, the plan has so far been stymied by the police, who have refused to respond to the crime wave by reopening the station or even increasing police patrols in the area. “Look, we know bloody well who is behind this campaign and we have no intention of being seen to reward this sort of despicable activity by giving in to them,” Assistant Chief Constable Hugh Frottle of West Sussex Constabulary told me later that day. “Honestly, if we reopen that police station in response to a seven hundred per cent crime increase it will just result in massive outbreaks of criminality in every other place we cut patrols and officer numbers to meet financial targets. We have to concentrate on catching real criminals – not waste time and resources on a bunch of disgruntled middle class pensioners who seem to think that we exist solely to provide them with personal security.” Frottle has little sympathy for the villagers’ complaints that they are being discriminated against in favour of working class urban areas. “That’s utter nonsense – our response times to crimes in poor inner-city housing estates is just as poor as it currently is in Crapstone Turdis,” he declares. “Besides, they’re the bastards who voted Tory and Lib Dem and lumbered us with this government! It’s their own bloody fault if they don’t like the results!”