Worked from home yesterday to wait for delivery of a new fridge, and at 11.15 heard a diesel van/truck outside so went upstairs to see if it was my delivery, instead it was a Transit with ladders on top. It started to do a 3-point turn outisde my house and I decided to watch until it drove away just in case the driver misjudged his manouvre and hit my car. Instead he stopped half way through and one of the two passengers got out and headed off to go round the back of the row of houses, and the driver finished his turn and headed out of the cul-de-sac, but very slowly, with him and the other passenger having a good look at each house as they went past. Seemed a bit suspicious to me, so I went to a room at the back of the house and looked out the window and saw the other bloke from the van walking past doing the same sort of reconnaissance on this side. He disappeared around the corner, so back to the front of the house I went and saw him get back in the van and have a quick chat with the others to report what he'd seen. Then the van left my cul-de-sac, drove along the main road at 5mph, and turn into the next cul-de-sac.
It looked rather suspicious to me, so I decided to go and see what they were doing. Got on my push bike (walking would be too slow to catch up, and you can't secretly follow someone in a car at 5mph, it's too obvious), got over to the next cul-de-sac and saw them just leaving. Same thing again, drive slowly along the main road, into the next cul-de-sac, passenger gets out and walks round to the back of the of the houses and the driver does his recon around the front.
I've seen enough, so phone out and it's 999. Get through to the police control room and tell the operator I've seen a suspicious van. I describe what I've seen, the recon of both sides of each house, doing it in cul-de-sac after cul-de-sac.
"So the passenger gets out and walks down the road and gets back in the van" says the operator, completely missing the point and sounding confused as to what I'm implying is the suspiciousness of their behaviour.
"No" I say, "he doesn't go for a walk, he's doing reconnaissance of the houses, as is the driver". I give her the reg number of the Transit and use phonetic alphabet (e.g. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, rather than Apple, Boobs and Coconuts), thinking surely she should pick up on that and realise if I know the phonetic alphabet I'm probably not a complete moron.
"So basically they're looking in gardens?" she asks.
"Look" I say, "it's not a hard concept to grasp, and if you're not able to understand what I'm conveying then put me through to someone who can. No one's looking at gardens, they're looking at houses as if they're doing reconnaissance".
"Ok, thank you for that information" she says, "if we need to get more details from you we'll be in contact". Basically she made it sound like she thought I was wasting their time.
That seemed to be the end of that. Then at 9am this morning I get a call from a Detective Constable about my call to them yesterday, wanting me to tell him everything I saw, so I repeated it all and answered lots of questions such as descriptions of the people and the van etc. Then he says it was a real shame that there were no cars available to find the van when I called and he was really glad I'd gone to the trouble of going after the van and getting the reg number. He goes on to say he's done a check on their system and it's showing that six other police forces in East Anglia and the South East have done checks on this same van and marked it as a vehicle of interest, and he's now going to contact them all to find out what has made each of them suspicous about it. Makes me glad I phoned them after all.