Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sneak Crime That's a Drain on Us All

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Sneak Crime That's a Drain on Us All

Article excerpt

Byline: TOON ; COUNTRY DAVID BANKS

IF there's a British Press Award for gutter journalism this year, I'm a sure thing and the drinks are on me.

Forget the News of the World. No chequebook was employed in busting the latest crimewave to stalk the streets and country lanes of Tweedo Paradiso; no email was hacked and no phone was tapped to bring you my fearless expos. Trust me, I'm a journalist.

The free village email newsletter I produce (The Clarion, circulation 200 and rising) revealed that in recent weeks more than 100 cast iron grid lids and manhole covers had been swiped by guttersnipes from kerbside gullies, leaving unguarded pits big enough to break a walker's leg, wreck a bicycle (and its rider) or ruin a car tyre.

The rocketing cost of scrap metal is to blame: Ford's parish clerk reported two thefts to the county highways department, two more were notified in the Branxton area and suddenly we had lifted the lid on a crime wave.

Police recovered around 20 grid lids from a van in the Tillmouth area. Charges may follow.

Meanwhile, half-a-ton of cast iron sits in plastic bags marked "Exhibit A" until the investigation has run its course. The hard-up highways department has a choice: fork out precious council revenue to replace the lids now - preferably with plastic - or risk injuries while waiting for justice to complete its journey.

Of course, the police could just detain a single sample grid in custody and release the rest to the council on bail.

Or would that be all too simple? NAME-DROPPING, I know, but Rupert Murdoch did once tell me that "a man never went broke underestimating the intelligence of newspaper readers".

And as I said in my talk to the Cross-Border Club at Yetholm last night, I've seen the proof.

Anne Robinson, who worked for me at the Daily Mirror before she left to become Queen of Mean on the Weakest Link, asked a competitor: "According to Alexander Pope's Essay on Man, what springs eternal in the human breast? …

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