Thursday, November 09, 2006

Less Police, More Deaths

Britain is 'lagging behind Europe in cutting deaths on the road'

Salient points from this Times article:

  • The last decade has seen a 16% drop in traffic police. (Effectively superseded by the "incompetently-non-multi-taskable" speed cameras)
  • From 1998 to 2004, police roadside breath tests decreased from 816,000 to 578,000.
  • From 1998 to 2004, drink-drive road deaths increased from 410 to 520.

When I was growing up, perhaps listing armed police, and dog handlers too; traffic police seemed like the coolest tranche of policing: - You get to drive the best cars, participate in car chases, and posses some of the most highly trained road craft in the world. So why cut back traffic cops?

Money. Police officers need salaries, speed cameras don't. Police officers require training investment, speed cameras don't. Police officers can apply descrescion, speed cameras are obedient money printers.

It is almost laughable how much faith has been put in video cameras (including CCTV, speed cameras, bus lane cameras, congestion charge cameras, etc), by law enforcement agencies. Laughable, because machines are notoriously easy, (for those who want / need to) to circumvent their attraction.

"Man" on the other hand, will always have facets, and qualities, and senses which even a googolplex of zeros & ones, could only dream on achieving. For example, it is the traffic cop whose instinct will spot something suspicious about a certain driver, and often prove to be very justified, when the car is pulled over for a friendly chat.

Even the presence of traffic police just "being there" cruising the roads, is enough to influence driver's decisions (e.g. no-one speeds outlandishly past a police car). A valuable presence reminding drivers to drive "properly".

For those who choose to ignore their responsibilities, e.g. drink drivers, how is a camera going to instil any kind of fear of consequence, when it can't pull drivers over, and can't do breathalizers!

Plus if you were a mugger or a burglar, which environment would you prefer -
The city where an occasional police car may cruise around the corner unexpectedly?
Or the city where patrolling police have been abandoned in exchange for an impotent yellow speed camera?

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