Springtime, and the vermin come out of hibernation
It’s spring; yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed a day of walking my beat in the fresh spring sunshine. Spring also brings out some of the worst types of crooks. I was sent to deal with a report of a bogus gardener. Doesn’t sound too bad does it? As you will see though, these people are some of the most cynical and heartless…I’m struggling for a word to describe them that isn’t extremely offensive.
Typically these characters pose as someone offering a service; they target older, vulnerable people, most commonly women, aged 80+, struggling to maintain their independence in their own home. They either simply con their way into the house and steal from these people or, as in this case, bully the victim into having unnecessary work done on their house or garden, then charging them hugely inflated prices. In this case the lady was 87yrs old, proud and independent – until now. She was visited by, what appeared to be, jobbing gardeners who, without asking her, trimmed trees and shrubs in her back garden. They then demanded £750 for the, appallingly shoddy, work. She had £500 pounds in the house(!); they agreed to settle for that (out of the goodness of their hearts). It was only after she told the home carer about the gardeners that the alarm was raised – she didn’t even want the carer to do anything about it because, having realised she’d been done over, she felt stupid.
My job is, predominantly, to investigate the crime and catch the crook; but I couldn’t help feeling that anything we did in that line was secondary to what this poor old woman needed. Sat in the quiet of her living room, amongst the faded wall paper and furniture that must have been from the 1970s, she looked small and crumpled, as if some of the stuffing had been taken out of her (I understand now where that phrase ‘knock the stuffing out of you…’ comes from). My instinct was to gather people around her: friends, relatives anyone to protect her; but she refused to let me contact any of her grown up children; “Don’t tell them, they’ll have me put in a home…” was her reasoning.
I’ll bust a gut to catch these crooks: neighbours have given a description of the white Transit pick-up van used and the name on the side: ‘Gary’s Gardens’, though doubtless the name will have changed by now. My best shot is that the van will have been picked up by CCTV passing near to the local shops; I’ve already arranged for it to be examined by a colleague on another shift whilst I’m on my rest days.
Even now I can’t help thinking about this incident (as you can tell). The most enduring thought I have is not just anger at these bullies; but rather that they have no idea what they are doing to people: they are stealing far more than money.
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