Tuesday 19 August 2008

‘Neighbourhood Watch’ – Yr Doin It Wrong

Speed guns and cameras may be ever-more advanced, but in the village of Swarland, they're catching out motorists with a more traditional device - the naked eye.

Police have asked residents to watch out for drivers who may be breaking the speed limit - and pass the details on.
Splendid! Well, informing on your near neighbours worked in Stalin’s Russia, why not in pretty little Swarland?
The supposed offender will have their registration number, gender, and the date of alleged offence stored on a controversial police database.

If a motorist is reported twice, an officer will pay them a visit. If they are reported a third time, police will make them a target to look out for.
It beggars belief that this isn’t attracting the attention of Liberty and all those other campaign groups.

And I’d like to know if the Information Commissioner has certified this ‘controversial police database’ under the Data Protection Act?
'Northumbria Police are out of their minds,' said the Association of British Drivers.
Hard to argue..!
'The people who are going to be doing this have not been trained, do not have the ability to measure speed accurately, will get it wrong by upwards of 20mph and will end up reporting their neighbours or people they don't like.'
Yes. But I suspect that’s not a bug, it’s a feature. Keep the populace in fear and suspicion of each other, and you can rule unopposed.
Rebecca Mordue, 54, who lives in the village, said: 'How on earth are they supposed to know what speed they are doing?

'Could there be some vendettas going on in the village?

'You could be doing 28mph, how would anyone know unless they had a speed gun. I just think the system is flawed - it's open to abuse and error.'
Quite. But I bet now you’ve gone public with your disapproval, your card’s marked! I wouldn’t get out of first gear for a while, if I were you…
Her husband, Ian, 60, who works for Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, said: 'They might not have any experience of driving. You could be doing 20mph, but someone could say you are doing 30.

'I have lived in this village for 19 years and I would not have thought speeding was a problem here at all. Most people go quite carefully but obviously someone disagrees.'
And that someone must have a bit of clout, to get the police to agree with him or her so quickly.
Police introduced the scheme this month, after Newton on The Moor and Swarland Parish Council complained about speeding. It could be rolled out to other villages, officers say.
Note the blithe unconcern about the legality or ethics of it displayed there.
Parish councillor Mike Shirley, who lives on Park Road said the council favoured the 'softly softly' approach. He added:
'As with the rest of the country, we have boy racers and the idiots.

'Something had to be done. We are not interested in the lass that is late to get her children to school and doing 35mph, we are interested in the idiot that is doing 75mph.'
Strangely, I think you’ll find the police won’t make that distinction, Mr Shirley. And if ‘the lass that is late to get her children to school’ falls foul of your busybody reporters? Or if you do..?
Alnwick neighbourhood inspector, Sue Peart, said the scheme was about 'educating' motorists and encouraging them to drive safely.

'However if a vehicle is regularly being brought to our attention we clearly have a duty to investigate.

'The co-ordinators of the scheme are responsible members of the community, such as councillors, and as with all information passed to the police as part of a "watch" scheme, there has to be an element of trust that it is accurate and given in good faith.

'Initial feedback from villagers is that the scheme has had a positive impact in reducing the number of people speeding through Swarland and once it's been evaluated it may be rolled out to other villages.'
Oh, this Peart woman is almost not worth the fisking, but here goes:

Firstly, you have no duty to investigate vehicle crime. Get that?
NONE. That is the job of the police, not curtain-twitching Miss Marples with nothing better to do.

Secondly, unless there’s been an unannounced alien takeover in Northumberland, councillors are drawn from the same pool of humanity as the rest of us. That is to say, prone to the same petty, pointless, vicious little squabbles and jealousies that plague any small community.

That’s why police rely on actual evidence of speeding, such as from a camera or hand-held device (which must adhere to rigid standards of testing and maintenance – and often doesn’t, to the delight of Nick Freeman) rather than Officer Dibble’s ‘I estimated the car was travelling at XX mph, your honour’, which roughly translated, means ‘The bastard has a Porsche, and I’ve only got a Ford Escort…’

Though it comes as no surprise, really, that they can actually find ‘volunteers’ for such a pointless, Stalinesque scheme as this. What a miserable, squalid little country we are slowly becoming…


Simon Fawthrop said...

"Alnwick neighbourhood inspector"

WTF is one of those? Sounds very Orwellian to me.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it just...?

I wonder how neighbourhoods ever managed without them?