Send in the clowns
Its clear from most of the comments so far that few of you have any idea what you're talking about.
"All it would take is a malicious or fictitious phone call from a nutter to say you were a dealer, terrorist or thief to give them an excuse."
No, it wouldn't. And if you were in the police for 20 yrs you'd know that so I'm calling bulls*%t on that one.
Yeah, permission from THE HOME SECRETARY. And how often do you think that happens? You know what, no one is that interested in what you get up to. Its like exchange admins, sure they can read all your emails, but who'd want to, they have better things to do.
They do indeed know who the crims are. But here's what happens:
Plod is out on the beat (okay, suspend your disbelief for that at least) and sees "fingers" murphy, well known and prolific burglar at 2 in the morning walking about outside YOUR house, which is in a nice area and miles and miles from where murphy lives. They could stop and speak to him of course and ask what he's doing but hey, its a free country guv, I can walk wheres I like, innit. Plod now fills in foot long stop and question form and provides carbonated copy to murphy which he keeps. After all, if he's stopped again he can complain about police harassment.
But murphy doesn't know he's been spotted. So Plod could follow at a discreet distance, or call for a plain clothes Plod - see if murphy either goes into any of the driveways or picks up a bag of tools from a car, tries some door handles maybe, looks in any windows. Heaven forbid, even tries to break into a house leading to his arrest and trip to court for the day.
Except Pold can't. because that counts as directed surveillance and requires RIPA authorisation, a huge form and approval by someone who is probably senior enough to be on call at home, in bed.
Basic Police work. Like hanging round in area where theres been a number of assaults, or dealing drugs, in plain clothes to try and CATCH people not wait for someone to report being beaten up again, or worse. All these things need forms upon forms sent to one person, than another, then another for approval.
You think plod on the street has microwave imaging and lasser guided microphones and phonetaps in their pockets? Grow up.
Police red tape in this country is a joke. Why don't some of you spend a day in magistrates court and see how the system treats offenders. murphy gets convicted of 1 more burglary and he might get 1 month in prison. Get convicted of 10 and he gets 10 months. Oh, only they are all concurrent, so thats still only 1 month. Bargain.
4) Police, I've been assaulted, you have to do something! No I don't know what they looked like. No I didn't see where they went. No, no one else was with me. Well... no, not hit me, he pushed me, but thats assault, no ones allowed to push me I know my rights! You better do something or I'm making a complaint.
Steve: Know what else is fun, calling the fire brigade when there's not even a fire! Man you should see them scratching their heads looking for ages when nothing is even burning. Serves them right for getting to sleep in work eh? lol.