French Policing

I know the French government etc are coming in for a bit of stick after Nice, but please may I share our positive if trivial experiences of local policing?

We got home from the UK early on 12th July and had to start unpacking the car if only to get to the food in the car fridge. Shattered, we collapsed with a coffee once the boot was empty, around 11 am, and about an hour later there was a knock on the door. A lady who works in the factory opposite thought it was odd when a woman she hadn't recognised got out of the passenger door of our car, leaving it open, and walked off to get in another car and drive away. A couple of colleagues from the factory offices told us which direction she had driven off in, while we looked inside our car. The GPS and its leads had gone, as had the dash cam, but the thief hadn't looked in the glove compartment where I have to confess she would have found my credit cards.

We rang 17 and were advised to go to our nearest Gendarmerie to report the theft. They were closed until 2 pm, so I started looking through the CCTV recordings and downloaded a video of the woman inside our car and walking away from it, and I also downloaded some stills. Philip found the proof of purchase and serial numbers of the missing equipment and off we went: a longer journey than usual as the direct route is closed for roadworks.

The three officers in the local cop-shop were sympathetic, friendly and helpful. They were impressed by the photos which they copied to their computers, and the necessary forms were easier to fill in with the full make, model and serial numbers. We had our driving licences with us for id, and after a couple of hours admin and general chat, we went home. They called in later that day, all three of them, to look at our CCTV recordings and to make a fuss of our dog.

The next day they called again, to ask us to sign a couple of forms supporting the stills from our CCTV, and to tell us that the thief had been stopped in Switzerland on drug offences, and was found with equipment in her possession including our items, easily identified by make, model and serial number! It may be a few weeks before we get the goods back - or we may never do so, but it was satisfying to know that they were found and had helped nab the woman for theft as well as drugs.

While technically an international criminal, (although we are only 40 minutes from the Swiss border) she was just an opportunist thief with enough cheek to get into a car in front of our own front door and spend enough time sitting in it to disconnect a number of wires and power supplies, but at least she did no damage and nobody was hurt. Meanwhile I've found Google maps to be more helpful than the Garmin or the on-board Peugeot navigator, so no real harm has been done.

What has been achieved, though, is that our village now knows how highly we think of the local police officers. Many thank to the Chezery Gendarmerie. All we would have got in Croydon would be a disinterested constable on the phone with a crime number. Here, the system actually worked! Today I thanked the office staff in the factory by sending in a home-made Victora Sandwich for them to share - if Nellie hadn't reacted as she did we would have blamed each other for being unable to find the electronics.