“It’s rising in London as well. What, my dear Watson, do you conclude from that?” “I suppose it does seem a bit odd,” I faltered. “Odd!” ejaculated Holmes, leaping from his armchair and throwing off his dressing gown. “It’s perplexing in the extreme. Month in, month out the British public is being conditioned to think that there is something amiss with policing – and yet their faith in the police seems actually to be rising. To what do you attribute this anomaly, Watson?”
I looked blankly at the Morning Post. “Perhaps they are just ignoring the media,” I hazarded. “Ignore the media?” said Holmes. “Unthinkable. Try harder.” Now he crossed the room, out of my line of sight, and started rummaging in a cupboard. I clutched my head, and went through the evidence.
“Well,” I said at length, “one thing that most of these scandals have in common – with the exception of Plebgate – is that they took place some time ago. Orgreave and Hillsborough were in the Eighties, the Lawrence investigation was in the Nineties. Even this apparent shredding of documents about undercover policing took place more than 10 years ago – under a former commissioner.
“Perhaps the public have noticed that. Perhaps they feel it is all a bit – historic?”
Holmes seemed displeased by my explanation. “Tchah,” he said from his corner. “Not good enough, Watson. The police are given extraordinary powers over us. They can arrest. They can detain. They can enter a person’s home without leave. They often carry lethal weapons. It is absolutely right that the public should demand the highest possible standards of probity and integrity from every police officer in this country, and I am sure our friends at Scotland Yard would agree, and that is why they are getting to the bottom of all of these matters.
“No, Watson, there is a simpler reason for this rise in public confidence in policing” – at this I heard him approach the back of my chair – “and it is staring you in the face!” I whirled round and gave a yelp of alarm. Holmes had vanished, and in his place was an elderly Chinese man, with pigtails and an opium pipe. I looked again, and realised that my friend was using his almost supernatural ability to take on a new identity – a skill that he had found invaluable for his undercover detective work.
“I get it, Holmes,” I said. “You mean the public value undercover police work, and think some of the attacks on these methods are overdone?” “Of course they do,” said Holmes. “Undercover officers crack paedophile rings. They expose drug lords. They do some of the most difficult and terrifying work in policing. But that is not the clue to which I was referring. What do you see – here in this room – that explains why confidence in the police is going up?”
I looked around in bafflement at the old sofas, the deerstalkers, the mouldering books. I gave up. “You’ve got me beat, Holmes,” I conceded. “Why, Watson,” said Holmes, tossing off his disguise and thumping his chest, “it’s our very presence in this room; it’s me; it’s you; it’s both of us! Here we are on a Monday afternoon, and we haven’t had a decent case in months. And why?
“Because crime is falling, my friend. It is falling across the country, and in London it has fallen about 7 per cent in one year. Burglary, car theft, violence, knife crime – you name it: virtually every type of crime is well down. Murders in London are running at about 100 a year – almost 50 per cent down on six years ago – and an amazingly low rate for a city of 8.2 million. Bus crime is down 40 per cent…” “Bus crime?” I said. “I didn’t know buses could commit crimes.” “Crime on buses,” said Holmes crisply, “and crime on the tube is lower than ever before. That’s why people are more confident – because beneath the hullabaloo the police are doing an outstanding job.” “Great Scott, Holmes! I think you’ve got it,” I gasped.
“But why won’t the media report the good news?” “Ah,” said my friend. “Now that is like the giant rat of Sumatra. It is a tale for which the world is not yet ready.”