On the Star's front page of September 5 we ran the headline: "Where were police when our shop was wrecked?"

Small traders Nigel and Jody West, who run The Ped Shed in Aldershot High Street, said the police were ineffective after the shop suffered two ram raids and a brick through the window in just two months after opening.

They said other shopkeepers with similar experiences agreed with them that the police "seem more interested in operating as uniformed tax collectors by targeting motorists."

Having just returned to Britain from America, where crime has fallen to a 30 year low, Mr. West said: "The policing here seems a shambles. I haven't bothered to lodge an official complaint because I've lost faith in them."

He also said he feels more intimidated locally than he did walking at night through Los Angeles and New York.

These are serious charges and you would think Hampshire Constabulary would have rushed to rebut them. You would think wrong.

In the week the story was published we made several unsuccessful attempts to get a comment from police at Aldershot.

We faxed a copy of the story to them, without response. They claimed not to have seen it.

When the paper was published we mailed a copy to them to make comment easier. Still no reaction.

Subsequent to this Cliff Mogg again phoned back to Aldershot Police Station but was unable to locate anyone who could comment. A Star was mailed to both the Chief Constable's office and the press office at Winchester. Again, no reaction.

If the police wonder why their public image is fast deteriorating, this could be one of the reasons. They have an expensively-staffed media office at headquarters which is supposed to be able to deal with press inquiries. Even if the local commander has no time, his public relations people should have and he could have referred the matter to them.

Or is it that the policing situation in North East Hants really is a shambles, citizens on the streets and shopkeepers have little or no protection, every weekend fences are kicked in, walls damaged and graffiti scrawled as crowds of drunks walk home through our lawless streets, and the only reaction to any of this is to have an "initiative" to persecute more motorists driving at 37 mph?

I wish we had the American system of electing our local police chiefs. Then "don't care" could be made to care.

Meanwhile, use of the mobile speed cameras so beloved of the boys in blue is set to treble by the end of this year, with 1,000 extra going on the roads.

Already the number of motorists caught and convicted by roadside speed cameras has gone through the million a year mark.

Convictions will reach three million a year by 2004, Plod happily predicts.

Of course, there would be some justification if there was some truth in the "it saves lives" mantra.

However, a recent Leeds University study says some cameras increase the chance of crashes.

They are, of course, mainly revenue raisers and spawned by the anti-car mentality of both the Government and local politicians.

FACT: The most reliable figures suggest that only seven per cent of serious accidents are caused by speeding. Just falling asleep at the wheel causes far more deaths and the solution to this, allowing many more coffee-serving small cafes to open along our roads, is banned by - the Government, via reams of planning restrictions.

Anyway, officialdom will not be goaded by my column for much longer, as I am about to come into money.

I am going into business - or conspiracy - with Dr. Anayo Obi, who has offered me an irresistible "partnerzhip (sic) in business" - he was obviously educated in Britain.

Dr. Obi of Nigeria has spotted that I am "reliable and reputable" and is also perceptive enough to see I might be interested in a share of $22 million.

By participating I also help avert bloodshed, so I can't lose, as he himself points out. What a nice man - and so generous. I can't tell you more: the good doctor has insisted on our dealings being "top secret."