I always thought it was just fantasy; it appears I may have thought wrong!
The Bill, I'm talking about The Bill. A UK TV show which ran for 26 seasons back-in-the-day. I used to watch them when they were on and would often find myself saying "yeah, ok, because that would happen in real life". Turns out it really does.
This week I've caught up on some old episodes on UKTV Play. Season 18 to be exact; starting with Ep 6, simply titled "Quinnan 1" where "Dave" one of the most popular characters when it was on, has gone undercover with a female police officer to try and catch some dodgy Albanians who are people/drug smuggling and money laundering. Now, of course, I know that goes on over here (all around the world) however, I thought they hammed it up for TV to make good viewing. I probably would have continued to think that way had we not had an influx of Albanians, Cypriots, Turkish and Iraqi's muscle into the area where I live (there are a few other nationalities too but they main one's are the A's, C's and T's). Don't get me wrong; I have absolutely no issue with anyone moving from another country to settle here. I've recently found myself in a many-an-argument with ignorant, awful people who have been giving the amazing RNLI crews shit because they've been picking up migrants in the English Channel and bringing them to this country. I hope they all get the help they need. If you have an issue with these people then you really need to take a hard look at yourself. I cannot even begin to imagine what they have already endured, to then find themselves packed into an inflatable dinghy in the middle of an ocean. How desperate have you got to be to put yourself in that situation? To think it ok for people, fellow human beings to drown in the channel is beyond comprehension to me. Whilst I don't believe in god, heaven, or hell, I hope there is a special place reserved in whatever hell may look like for anyone who wishes harm on these people. You have to be the lowest of the low. However, when it comes to the ones who have moved into my area (who are here legally) well, let's just say I wish they'd found themselves in a sinking dinghy.
The acting in the couple of episodes The Bill gave over to this particular story line leaves a lot to be desired, but if you get the chance, give it a watch because what they have going on there, is exactly what is going on where I live/work, although theirs centres around a hotel, whilst in my area it's centred around fast-food outlets, barbers and car washes. They've bought up a lot of businesses where my little shop is situated and for the past 4 years have been trying hard to get myself and my immediate neighbour out of our shops. They own all the ones on either end of our block; the only thing stopping them from having them all, which is what they want, is the 2 of us. She did agree to sell to them once; a price was set, hands were shook, then they told her they would do half through the books, the rest in cash. Having no issues with that she agreed, before telling them that the cash would still have to go through her books. They couldn't' understand why she would want to do that, no matter how hard she explained that her accountant would want to know why she had sold a property worth a set amount, for half that amount, and what was she meant to do with £80K in cash? It's not exactly a small amount that can be hidden underneath the mattress, is it?. The uproar this caused saw them pull out of the sale, and turn her immediate neighbouring shop the other side into the same business as her one, undercutting her on absolutely everything. There was also a lot of intimidation from them, phoning her in the middle of the night, threats were made, damage was done to her property. For a few months it was pretty relentless. One of them would turn up at her business on the day I close earlier than her, after I had left. He would stand in her doorway blocking her exit and tell her over-and-over again that the best thing she could do for herself would be to sell to him, because he was going to get her shop anyway at some point, and he thought it best she sell to him when he would still be willing to pay a higher price, than having to sell to him at a rock bottom price because she had no business left to sell once their new one next door had forced her to close down. The guy running the business the other side of me would then go in and play "good cop" to the other's "bad cop" and suggest maybe she would do better selling. I pulled him up on this outside one day, telling him to leave her alone and to tell his "friend" to stop contacting her and threatening her. It pissed me off (still does) that they thought/think it acceptable to threaten a woman who works alone and is quite easily intimidated. He (my neighbour) told me "I have nothing to do with any of them any more; I've severed ties with them". Less than 10 days later the bad cop was helping him out in his shop. I told him there-and-then to never speak to me again; I cannot stand liars and he stood there and lied to my face. A few months later he had moved on and another manager had replaced him. That's how they seem to operate. You'll get your one member of staff who is permanent, lives local, may have even married a local girl, then the rest of the staff you will see for a few months before they are moved on. I guess once word gets around that there may be an illegal working there (several of whom we know for a fact were as they had told us) they get moved on and replaced by someone else.
When a large house on the end of our block of shops came up for sale, they moved in and bought it. Three times it had been raided by immigration, yet not once have they found anyone; the reason for this is because about thirty minutes before a raid is about to take place, vans will pull up at the property and fill up with whomever is living in the house (who is undocumented; they have a few who are here legally, I guess to keep an eye on things). Those who cannot fit in cars/vans will do a runner. I have a camera outside the back of my shop which covers the shared alleyway. This picks up the stragglers running away. Not once have the police asked for the footage yet I have them on camera pointing to my camera's when they walk down the back to see if anyone is hiding, so they know they are there. Now, I'm not saying the police are involved and tipping them off, but someone, somewhere has to be. A few days later the place is filled again.
The same camera out the back, I also have out the front. This has picked up so many different things over the years. Drugs changing hands, people being moved from one vehicle to the next (some of them have popped out of the boots of cars). Not once has any of the footage been asked for. It has stopped a little bit in the past few months as we've had a load of new build properties opposite be built, which are now filled so I guess they have to be a little bit more careful than once they were.
I'm not sure if the council are involved when it comes to an immigration raid, but if they are it could well be someone on our local council tipping them off. Pretty sure the planning dept are getting some kind of kick-back, because every single plan they submit (and they submit a lot) get's approved, even after we have been given letters stating that certain things will never be allowed. Less than 6 months after they get the approval. We're currently waiting to see what's going to happen about the house they bought and have their "Staff" living in, because they've submitted plans to build 2 blocks of apartments on the land; they have also contacted the gentleman who lives next door to where they want to build as they'd like to have his half-acre of land also. My shop backs onto his garden; he's assured me he will never sell to them and for the 14 years I've known him, I've never once taken him for a man who would not stick to his word. In fact he's objected more than I have to any plans which have been submitted. One of my other neighbours had to jump through so many hoops to be allowed to put up a summer house in his garden, yet every plan the 'intimidators' submit sails through. They get to park illegally all day too; the parking enforcer will turn up, tell them to move, and drive off again. The move by driving up the road, turning around and parking back in the same spot, yet one of my customers had her back wheels just over the double-yellow lines and got a parking ticket.
I recently found myself backing down from the fight; nothing I say or do makes a jot of difference anyway and not because they intimidate me. When they parked one of their vans against my shop door so I wasn't able to exit the building, I got some paint thinners I had kicking around the sink cupboard and a lighter and told them if it wasn't moved I'd set fire to it. That would have meant the front of my shop going up in flames too, but that's a chance I was willing to take. When they saw the look on my face I think they realised I wasn't joking and was ready to do it, so they moved it. A few weeks back one of them parked his car right up to the door. I'm not a delicate little female so when I climbed over his bonnet it didn't look as pristine and shiny as it had before. They've parked up to my forecourt since, as close as they can, but they've not parked on it! During the lock downs I was the only business allowed to trade (behind closed doors). Not that they stopped at all anyway. The barber began cutting hair outside the back of one of their fast food outlets, or went around to peoples houses. Again, the council and police knew this was going on and did nothing. One day there were a load of them out the front of the shop with some bags/boxes being unloaded from cars (which was definitely not stock for their businesses) before being taken around the back of their shops where they entered via side doors. The properties opposite were all still vacant at this point. I believe they thought I wasn't in the shop at-the-time too; when they realised these 2 guys (big guys, quite menacing looking) stood staring at me through my shop window - trying to intimate me I believe. I walked over to the window, smiled at them, and dropped my blinds! The following day I had the back door open as it was a warmer, sunny day; I also love listening to the wild birds singing in the neighbouring house garden. Walking from the front of the shop I was in the passageway which leads to the back door when I realised some of the light was being blocked. When I looked up the same 2 men were standing in the doorway, just staring at me again. I looked at them, said "good morning" before putting turning into the kitchen where I put the kettle on. I did also grab the bread knife I have out there from the drawer, just-in-case. Thankfully they never entered the building but they were still standing there when I carried my coffee cup down the passageway. I logged onto the cameras are my workbench once back in the actual shop area as they cover the passageway to the back door, and the alleyway out the back. They never did enter, but they stood there for a good 45 minutes. I was not, and will not, let someone force me out of my shop, and I certainly do not back down from bullies, which is what this lot are.
After a recent spate of break ins, all of which targeted just their businesses, they claimed the safe at the cafe (a small affair with just 4 tables and 12 chairs which is open for only 5 hours each day) was broken into and that days takings hadn't been banked for some reason. Apparently they got away with £8k. You read that right. £8000 for 12 covers in one 5 hour period. I reckon even the McDonalds in town would struggle to get the much, and they're in the town centre. Their cafe is on the outskirts, several miles outside of town in a small local shopping area. There aren't enough people around here to spend that much in one day. If I remember rightly the barber had a similar amount stolen. At £15 per hair cut, 2 cuts an hour (they are exceptionally slow) 2 staff and open for 8 hours 6 days a week, they'd have to have had over a months worth of takings just sitting around in their safe. That's taking into account both staff members working all day; often there will only be 1 in. Yeah, ok, they made all that money from cutting hair on one day, did they?
Having now watched those old The Bill episodes, I might be a little less inclined to give them so much attitude as I have been. Watching the show, and seeing how they (the bad guys) operate I'm a little less inclined to speak out quite-so-much as I was. I don't relish the idea of finding a dead rat sitting on my workbench when I come in one morning. I do know the 'main man' has said to my neighbour who wouldn't sell in the end that "no matter what happens" he will get what he wants. He also said "and her in there" (pointing towards my shop) needs to stop putting in objections to my planning applications". That will never happen. In fact I added on my last objection "if the gentleman who has submitted these plans is reading this and is still struggling to understand why I am objecting, even though I've numbered every point and added a detailed reason for each, then please feel free to come and have a chat with me so I can explain to you face-to-face, hopefully in a way you may understand. There's no need to run and ask my neighbour about why I am doing/saying what I've done/said; come directly to me" so I've not backed off too far.
One thing I am grateful for is that they've not given us so much shit they then send in the heavies to offer us "protection". I do think they are a little too clever to try that. Besides, all the time they are getting away with everything else, they don't need to be extorting money from us. One of the PCSO's did actually said to me one day "it looks like we have our own version of the mafia at play here", so I guess the time for 'protection' may be coming. They don't just own most of my little area either. I know of a large town half-an-hour away where they own a lot of businesses, some of which were bought in the same way they wanted to buy my neighbours. Another small town in the opposite direction also has a lot of properties owned by them.
The thing which pisses me off the most though, is that the local people all know what is going on, all complain about them, yet continue to use their services and buy their food. Thanks for that, then!
I'll keep doing those lottery numbers and adding my paypal link to everything, in the hope that one I might be able to afford to walk away. For now though, I'll keep plodding on, working my arse off, paying my taxes and living an honest life.