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Doreen Tipton: Police work? Cut it out. . .

Weekend | Published: | Last Updated:

Remember that trend a few years back of putting life-size cardboard cut-outs of policemen in the doorways of shops to deter shoplifters?

What a card – call the cops

Most of us, of course, loffed at them. And the average thief, even ones from the Black Country, had quickly worked out that if push came to shove they could probably out-run a piece of cardboard. But despite all that, apparently, this bizarre idea still actually managed to cut the amount of theft by quite a bit. The theory was, the psychological effect of just seeing the two-dimensional flatfoot out of the corner of your eye was enough to make folk think twice before stuffing that George Foreman grill up their jackets and walking out of the shop.

That got me wondering if the scheme could be successfully extended into other areas.

For example, we could start by replacing the whole police force with cardboard cut-outs and see if we notice the difference. The trials should start in London, with the Met police, who I’m told don’t bother doing anything these days unless you send somebody a naughty tweet. That’s unless, of course, you’re spotted with a Union Jack, in which case they’ll descend in the Black Maria en masse, burst into your house, hit you over the head with a copy of the Guardian, arrest you, burn your books and send your children to be fumigated and de-radicalised at the nearest University.

Thankfully, from what I can see, Black Country coppers still seem to be on the same planet as the rest of us for the time being. I got to know quite a few of them in my shoplifting days, and they was the salt of the earth. And I’m sure most of them would rather be locking up bad folk than sitting in a classroom learning their gender tables.

But with politicians now in charge of police priorities, I do worry. Too many are having their agendas dictated by a bloke called Karl (the only Marx Brother to be born without a sense of humour) and often their hands are tied (if not handcuffed).

I’ve reported a few incidents to the police in my time, usually about my own daughter (who was recently voted Young Offender of the Year by the local Neighbourhood Watch) but apparently they can’t officially do anything until somebody actually breaks the law, at which point they can then officially begin to do nothing. These days, if you want the force to be with you, your best bet is to go and see a Star Wars film. So a cardboard cut-out might at least act as a deterrent – a bit like Trident only cheaper. Come to think of it, we could even have a cardboard cut-out of Trident – I doubt Kim Jong Un would notice from that distance.

But why stop there? How about putting cardboard cut-outs of tax inspectors at market stalls, car boot sales, Pick Your Own fruit farms, building sites and dodgy drug-trading street corners? It might make us think twice about all that undeclared income (and when I say ‘us’ – of course I mean you).

We could also try cardboard cut-outs of BBC newsreaders, which would be more interesting to watch and listen to than the real thing, and more journalistically balanced. Cardboard cut-outs of some soap actors would be less wooden (even though cardboard’s made out of wood). And cardboard politicians would be far more charismatic, tell fewer fibs and offer more dynamic leadership. Right now I’d settle for a cardboard backbone, rather than none at all.

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And of course all this would all save millions of pounds. Just think how much West Bromwich Albion alone would have saved in wages bills this year if they’d fielded eleven cardboard footballers instead of the real team. But their final league position would have been exactly the same. And I doubt the fans would have noticed any change in the amount of movement off the ball, especially if it was a windy day.

This money-saving idea could be extended into all sorts of areas. Every time you pass a bunch of workmen in Britain standing round a hole or on a section of roadworks, you’ll notice that only one of them is actually doing any work. The others could easily be replaced by cardboard cut-outs of blokes holding a clipboard, or a mug of tea. As well as demanding less in wages, cardboard people also need less Health & Safety training and protective equipment. All those savings could be invested back into the one bloke that’s actually doing something.

But I know what you’re thinking – what about all the job losses? Well, the real bloke will get paid far more, and will therefore be taxed more, and his extra taxes will pay for the extra benefits of all the ones that were replaced by a cardboard replica. It’s much the same system as we have now, but without the pretence of useful work by some.

Besides, it’s not all about redundancies – there are a few areas where we’d actually need to take on more staff. The Bin men, for example.

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After all, once a fortnight is cardboard recycling day. And that’s going to be really busy.

Tarra a bit. X

PLEASE NOTE; This column does not represent the personal opinions of Doreen, who for legal reasons has been replaced by a cardboard cut-out.

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