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Sussex Police encourage public to report anti social drivers - 20,000 reports later…

But not everyone is happy, operation Crackdown encourages "spying" say critics...

Depending on your viewpoint it's a useful initiative, helping cyclists and others to report unsafe, anti-social and aggressive driving or alternatively a symptom of an increasingly Stasi-like Britain where citizens are encouraged to spy on each another. The latter was certainly the line being taken by the Daily Mail usually such a keen supporter of no-nonsense law and order, it managed to get both the Stasi and Big Brother in to their headline on the story.

Whatever the perception, Operation Crackdown, which has been mounted by Sussex Police, is supposed to be an attempt to deter and punish careless and anti-social driving by encouraging the public to note the registration numbers of wrongdoing motorists and report them via a dedicated website.

Sussex Police is trialling the campaign and has already received 20,488 reports from the public according to the Daily Telegraph. Warning letters have been sent to 2,695 drivers, while a further 1,047 have been sanctioned for offences such as having an out-of-date tax disc, the paper says.

If successful, the scheme could be implemented across the UK. Critics say this would pave the way for a system reminiscent of that implemented by the East German Stasi, whereby neighbour spied upon neighbour and no-one knew who could be trusted.

Dylan Sharpe, of Big Brother Watch, an organisation that campaigns to protect civil liberties and personal freedoms, told the Telegraph that Operation Crackdown is "based on unfounded accusations by untrained and possibly prejudiced members of the public".

He said: "This scheme is wide open to abuse, ranging from people with minor grudges against neighbours to busybody drivers who think they know what constitutes bad driving."

Or perhaps it would enable vulnerable road users to independently report the transgressions of habitual bad drivers, possibly highlighting a pattern of unacceptable driving behaviour that might otherwise not come to light. Discuss.

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Simon E | 13 years ago

If nothing else, perhaps the scale of the response may indicate the level of distress / anger that bad driving generates.

While marshalling at a club time trial I noticed someone using a mobile while driving. I emailed West Mercia with a report of the incident and asked whether sending a report without a corroborating witness was effective. Never heard anything back.

I wonder how many complaints re. driver behaviour it would take to trigger a Police response compared to complaints about teenagers "hanging around" or even people cycling on pavements.

andylul | 13 years ago

The wheels turn, but oh so slowly

Used Operation Crackpipe to report an old fella whom I knew to be driving with diagnosed cataracts and memory problems.

His car looked like a terminally bad backstreet respray because every time he hit something, he got a can of silver paint from Halfolds to make it 'good as new'.

Eventually, ill-health stopped him from going out and the car was scrapped. The Police came round to advise him not to drive after he'd been in hospital for three months and the car had gone to be crushed.

Mark Appleton | 13 years ago

I think the latter post answers the former. Having checked the website, it is a bit of a palaver to fill in all the fields and you are required to provide contact details, which I would suggest will deter false or malicious reports - though not prevent them completely.
Jokers will tend to give up because it's too much effort and the genuinely aggrieved will persevere based on their levels of anger, outrage etc.

As for the Stasi/Big Brother comparisons, in those real/ficticious scenarios people were motivated by their fear of a malevolent state. In this scenario, as a cyclist, I'd be motivated by the fear that a reckless driver who's nearly wiped me out would actually succeed in doing the same to someone else.

Equally someone who has been reported multiple times might be forced by the police to consider and hopefully modify their driving, thereby making the roads a safer place for all, and especially for us cyclists.

OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

Yep, I did have a look at the set up as I was cut up by someone while driving through Sussex and was tempted to report them, but didn't in the end as I lost interest about half way through. It did occur to me that it'd be easy to make a false report.

Fish_n_Chips | 13 years ago

What if someone reports your plate as a joke?

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