This letter will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried to get the police to respond to anti-social behaviour in their area. I have seen versions of this letter addressed to Devon and Cornwall Police, Springburn Police Station in Glasgow and Greenock, to the West of Glasgow.
The version below is probably the genuine article and dates from 2007. The author denies making the letter public and his partner was quoted in a local newspaper about her concern about being identified:
The woman said: “We never sent it to anyone but the station so the leak has come from the police.
“These are local kids and we are worried they will identify us.”
For that reason, DCR is protecting the anonymity of the author.
Dear Sir/Madam/Automated Telephone Answering Service,
Having spent the past twenty minutes waiting for someone at Leith1 police station to pick up a telephone I have decided to abandon the idea and try e-mailing you instead. Perhaps you would be so kind as to pass this message on to your colleagues in Leith by means of smoke signal, carrier pigeon or Ouija board.
As I’m writing this e-mail there are eleven failed medical experiments (I think you call them youths) in West Cromwell Street which is just off Commercial Street in Leith. Six of them seem happy enough to play a game which involves kicking a football against an iron gate with the force of a meteorite. This causes an earth shattering CLANG! which rings throughout the entire building. This game is now in it’s third week and as I am unsure how the scoring system works, I have no idea if it will end any time soon.
The remaining five walking abortions are happily rummaging through several bags of rubbish and items of furniture that someone has so thoughtfully dumped beside the wheelie bins. One of them has found a saw and is setting about a discarded chair like a beaver on speed. I fear that it’s only a matter of time before they turn their limited attention to the bottle of calor gas that is lying on it’s side between the two bins. If they could be relied on to only blow their own arms and legs off then I would happily leave them to it. I would even go so far as to lend them the matches. Unfortunately they are far more likely to blow up half the street with them and I’ve just finished decorating the kitchen.
What I suggest is this. After replying to this e-mail with worthless assurances that the matter is being looked into and will be dealt with, why not leave it until the one night of the year (probably bath night) when there are no mutants around then drive up the street in a panda car2 before doing a three point turn and disappearing again. This will of course serve no other purpose than to remind us what policemen actually look like.
I trust that when I take a claw-hammer to the skull of one of these throwbacks you’ll do me the same courtesy of giving me a four month head start before coming to arrest me.
I remain sir, your obedient servant
Graeme was surprised to receive a rapid response:
I have read your e-mail and understand you frustration at the problems caused by youths playing in the area and the problems you have encountered in trying to contact the police. As the Community Beat Officer for your street, I would like to extend an offer of discussing the matter fully with you. Should you wish to discuss the matter, please provide contact details (address / telephone number) and when may be suitable.
Community Beat Officer
So he replied as follows:
Dear PC 387,
First of all I would like to thank you for the speedy response to my original e-mail. 16 hours and 38 minutes3 must be a personal record for Leith Police Station and rest assured that I will forward these details to Norris McWhirter4 for inclusion in his next book.
Secondly I was delighted to hear that our street has it’s own community beat officer. May I be the first to congratulate you on your covert skills. In the five or so years I have lived in West Cromwell Street, I have never seen you. Do you hide up a tree or have you gone deep undercover and infiltrated the gang itself? Are you the one with the acne and the moustache on his forehead or the one with a chin like a wash hand basin? It is surely only a matter of time before you are head-hunted by MI5.
Whilst I realise that there may be far more serious crimes taking place in Leith such as smoking in a public place or being Muslim without due care and attention, is it too much to ask for a policeman to explain (using words of no more than two syllables at a time) to these t***s that they might want to play their strange football game elsewhere? The pitch behind the Citadel or the one at DK’s are both within spitting distance, as is the bottom of the Leith Dock.
Should you wish to discuss these matters further you should feel free to contact me on 557 0890. If after 25 minutes I have still failed to answer, I’ll buy you a large one in the Compass Bar.
Leith lies on the South Shore of the Firth of Forth and is regarded as Edinburgh’s port. John Paul Jones, founder of the US Navy, tried to capture it with a squadron of seven ships during the American War of Independence in 1779 but it was too windy so he gave up and went home. Meanwhile, the people of Leith were ignoring him because they were too busy inventing the game of golf. ↩
For American readers (and young English readers): A panda car was the UK equivalent of an American ‘black and white’ – because pandas are black and white. Unfortunately panda cars were actually teal and white so the name was pretty stupid. They were phased out and replaced by white cars with a vivid orange stripe down each side – known as ‘jam butties’ or ‘jam butty cars’ , jam butty being British English slang for a jelly sandwich ↩
It is interesting to note that when this letter featured on www.emeregencyservicesforum.com, members of Her Majesty’s constabularies commented that they were equally impressed by a response time of just 16 hours. ↩
Norris McWhirter, and his twin brother Ross, were the authors of the Guinness Book of Records from 1954 until 1985. On 6 May 1954, Norris kept the time for Roger Bannister when he ran the first sub four minute mile. Christopher Chataway, another competitor in the same race, worked for Guinness and introduced the brothers to his employer. The rest, as they say, is history. ↩