It is said that the men responsible for smashing the windows of a neighbour’s vintage car did so in frustration that they could not remove the car from the shed in which it was stored. It is said that the same men were responsible for burning a nearby hay barn at the end of the summer of 2017, a barn that was filled with three hundred tons of hay bales that were for winter fodder. The men are not outsiders, they are not strangers, their names are recognisably ones from the local community; people know their families and their backgrounds.
Have we become a lawless place? Were we more honest in times past?
I doubt it. Why would there have been police station at Langport and Somerton and a police house in Long Sutton if there had been no work for the officers to do?
Police Constables Pearce and Sparkes were based in Langport station. They were household names. They were men who spent time out in the neighbourhoods, calling at farms, known for responding directly to situations. They seemed to possess almost divine qualities in their omniscience and omnipresence. Their networks must have been very effective, for there seemed little that they did not know. Perhaps the compact area they were expected to cover enabled them to be familiar figures.
In memory, PC Sparkes is like a policeman from the television series Heartbeat. He wore a black peaked crash helmet with goggles, a leather coat and big gauntlets and he rode a big motorbike which went down the road with a throaty roar.
It seems remarkable now, but the local police force felt able to be entirely open about their activities. The FM waveband was used for their radio communication; the radiogram in our house included FM in its wavebands and it was possible to sit and listen to stories as they unfolded, or, sometimes, to the idle chatter of officers working the hours of a quiet shift.
A police presence has all but disappeared from our community. No policeman has lived in Long Sutton for at least forty years. Langport station was closed and sold a generation ago and the site redeveloped. Somerton police station is used as an administration building. If there are police officers assigned to our area, their names are a mystery.
The answer to rural crime is not more security measures; it is not expecting people to phone reporting lines; it is not to blame trends in society; it is to look at what was good practice, what kept crime to minimal levels. The spirit of Pearce and Sparkes needs to be revived.