The Police Federation has called on ministers to abandon 'arrest targets' which, they say, have forced officers into ludicrous decisions to apprehend and throw in jail, perpetrators of nothing more than everyday mundane acts.
In one of these, a 12-year-old boy was charged with assault, after he threw a bun to an elephant at Dudley Zoo. And in another, where an old lady swatted a fly in Worcester, a charge of murder has been brought.
Other examples of 'easy targets' included twin 8-month-old babies who were arrested in Yarmouth, one for throwing his rattle out of his pram, and his sister for crying too loudly.
West Midlands Police Commissioner, Ronald Gadzooks, complained in a letter to PM Fony Blair, that targets hampered real crime detection, and that thousands of 'man hours' per year were wasted on, what he called, 'petty offences'.
"My officers are tired of answering calls to crimes which they have no way of solving", he said, "like burglaries. My advice to anyone who has been burgled is: Forget it. Contact your insurance company, not the police, and move on!"
Other forces around the UK have the same sorry outlook. Hampshire Police have told victims of car crime to "get a new car - steal one if you have to! - or take the bus", and the Lancashire Constabulary's answer to the growing drug problem in that area, rather than trying in vain to stem the flow of narcotics, is 'Just say "Yes" and have done with it!'
Calls to assault cases, unsociable, disruptive or drunken behaviour, and criminal damage are routinely ignored, officers turning up three or four days later to "take a statement".
A Home Office spokesman, who wished to remain nameless, said he resented the criticism levelled at 'targets', saying:
"There are far too many people in this country thinking they can go around slinging cucumber slices just whenever they feel like it."