One of the many good reasons for choosing this area to settle in, was the lack of reported crime. The chances of being robbed in the street in Beetley are almost impossible to calculate, as it just doesn’t happen. Your house is also unlikely to be burgled; though burglaries are reported, they are almost always in outbuildings. If you own a ride-on mower, or have just purchased some expensive gardening equipment, you might have to take extra care, but it is still a very slim chance. Car theft is so rare, many people do not even bother to lock their vehicles. Parcels are left outside front doors, and remain unmolested until the resident returns. Sexual offences, and drug-related crime are also unknown here, though in the nearby town of Dereham, just over three miles away, both have been reported. It seems that as long as you stay in Beetley, you can rest assured that there will be little or no chance of being the victim of a crime.
Theft of farm machinery, and plant vehicles, that is a problem. This is common to all rural areas, given the cost of a tractor or digger these days. There are farms around, but still little crime reported by them, at least in the confines of the parish. There is hardly even any litter, and I have seen no graffiti in the village, since moving here two years ago. Coming from London, where crime was so commonplace it almost went unnoticed, this is a refreshing change. I recall asking a neighbour about crimes locally, shortly after moving here. He thought for a while, and said that he could remember some broken bottles around the nearby football pitch. That had caused quite a stir, a few years ago.
Last week, this idyll was shattered, by a veritable wave of vandalism. On Beetley Meadows, the Parish Council provide some picnic benches, and assorted seating, for the benefit of those wishing to enjoy an afternoon by the river. This was done at some expense, and was well-used by many people last summer, especially families with small children, who might make a day of it by the shallows. They can relax on the benches, preparing lunch, as the kids splash around with small fishing nets, or use inflatable boats. Last Saturday, a fellow dog-walker brought my attention to one of these benches. It had been set on fire, presumably some time late on Friday evening. They had tried hard, building a pile of sticks under it, before setting them alight, hoping to destroy this bench. What they failed to realise, was that they are made of a resin composite, not wood, so the table top merely melted and charred, but there was no consuming blaze. The result is an unsightly mess, and a distorted, unusable surface.
When out dog-walking today, I was upset to find dozens of daffodils, with their heads pulled off, and trampled into the grass. This was obviously deliberate, as it was too concentrated in one area, to have happened by chance. The display of spring flowers in that area was a delight to see, with hyacinths and snowdrops alongside various daffodils. For some unknown reason, the vandals had chosen to completely denude one large area of flowers, leaving the damaged plants as evidence of their pointless act.
I confess that to a resident of some areas of Manchester, London, and other large cities, this will seem laughable. It is tiny, by comparison to the crime and anti-social behaviour common in many parts of the country. Yet somehow, the fact it has happened at all, in such a peaceful and placid place, makes it worse. Now I make no claim to be a detective, despite all those years working for the Metropolitan Police, but you don’t have to be Colombo to work out a few theories. When something happens that has never happened before, it points to two possibilities. Someone new to the area is carrying out the vandalism; or somebody who was once too small to do this, has now grown up, and beginning to embark on a spree of petty spitefulness.
We need to get to the bottom of it, or Beetley will surely be suffering a crime wave, sometime soon.