It’s just occurred to me that it’s been a long time since the last Crimewatch programme, so I’ve looked it up on the BBC website and discovered that the next episode will be on Thursday.  Something to look forward to later in the week!  For visitors from overseas, this appeal programme features real unsolved crimes and asks for help from the public to pinpoint the perpetrators.

I’ve been a Crimewatch fan almost since it began.  In the early days, I was attending quite a demanding evening class and would rush home afterwards to see it.  I always missed the first twenty minutes or so, which made the remainder of the programme all the more enjoyable.  I don’t like the glitzier image of recent years as much as the more straightforward regime presided over by Nick Ross, but I still hate to miss it.  This week’s episode is on the rise of mobile phone thefts, apparently, which doesn’t sound riveting… but we shall see!

I haven’t often been bored by Crimewatch, but I do favour some of the regular sections over others.  I like the rogues’ gallery, because it’s fun to speculate and put the face to the crime – though I realise that such games are purely subjective, for one thing, and, for another, fail to take into account the fact that police mugshots, like passport photographs, are bound to look sinister, because the subject is forbidden to smile.  I’m always absorbed by the reconstructions, which tend to feature murder or rape.  Sometimes I wish I could call out to the victims, tell them not to take that shortcut or forget to lock their door.  Clips that I like least tend to feature CCTV footage of mindless violence – although I know that it is right to highlight this – or what can perhaps be best described as a dark sister of the Antiques Roadshow: the parade of artefacts discovered by police to be in the possession of criminals who can’t or won’t say how they came by them.  I know at first hand that theft is a foul crime: my house has been burgled twice and I’ve also (as you may have read here) had my purse stolen.  But somehow this collection of inanimate objects doesn’t engage the attention in the same way.  Clips that show those bereft of treasured items and asking for their return are a different matter; I can empathise with the victims completely.

Best of all, though, are the retrospectives.  Sometimes a whole programme is devoted to these.  If this programme is additional to the season’s schedule, that’s a bonus.  What’s so fascinating about the retrospectives is the way in which they provide step-by-step documentation of how the villains in a previously featured case have been caught.  (Understandably, crimes which Crimewatch itself has helped to solve are most frequently chosen.)  I’m not a police procedural writer, as my readers know, although this is a very palatable way of finding out how the police operate, but it’s the insight into the criminal mind offered by the retrospectives that really grabs me.  Sometimes the perpetrator has shown such Machiavellian cunning that I’m full of admiration for the police in outwitting him or her; sometimes s/he seems to have behaved in such a stupid or reckless way that it’s surprising that they weren’t apprehended immediately.

If you have access to British TV (I know that this doesn’t apply to everyone who will read this) and you haven’t seen Crimewatch before, I invite you to join me on Thursday evening, 30th May, BBC1 at 9 p.m.  If you are already a fan, I look forward to keeping you company!  Perhaps we can compare notes afterwards.