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Police force that prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports now taking action in 97% of cyclist submissions

Six months on from admitting the need to review how reports are managed, the latest West Midlands Police figures show the force did not take further action of some form in just three of 356 reports made by cyclists during January

 Last spring, West Midlands Police came in for criticism after it emerged that the force had prosecuted just one driver from 286 videos of alleged close passes submitted by cyclists. Less than a year later and the force's latest Operation Snap figures reveal the stark increase in third-party video footage leading to police action, with a third of cyclists' reports in January 2024 leading to a motorist receiving a fixed-penalty notice — and 97 per cent of cyclists' reports being actioned in some way.

West Midlands Police has been publishing its Operation Snap data since August 2023, figures analysed by road.cc showing that the force received 356 reports from cyclists during the first month of 2024, including 90 for alleged mobile phone offences and 190 for "driving without due care or attention" or "driving without reasonable consideration".

Of the 356 reports received from cyclists, just three (one per cent) resulted in no further action for the motorist involved, 125 leading to a fixed-penalty notice (35 per cent), 15 in a court case (four per cent), 174 drivers accepting a place on a National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme course (49 per cent), and 33 drivers (nine per cent) receiving a warning letter. Six reports (two per cent) were classed as resulting in "other action taken".

near miss of the day 837 close pass mercedes driver - screenshot via Das_Pig on Twitter

When looking at specific offences, West Midlands Police's Operation Snap figures show that 46 per cent of cyclist reports of mobile phone use resulted in a fixed-penalty notice.

From 190 reports made by cyclists of alleged driving without due care or attention, or driving without reasonable consideration, just one was given no further action. The most common outcome (117 reports, 62 per cent) was the driver accepting an educational course, while 31 reports resulted in a fixed-penalty notice (16 per cent), 24 in a motorist being sent a warning letter (13 per cent), and 14 court cases (seven per cent). Again, three cases were resolved with "other action taken".

The remainder of reports from cyclists covered offences such as contravening a red traffic light, causing unnecessary obstruction, and contravening a cycle lane. 

> Here's what to do if you capture a near miss, close pass or collision on camera while cycling

The figures show a marked increase in West Midlands Police taking action following video reports of dangerous driving and other offences, January's 97 per cent action rate coming just six months after the force reviewed the way it processed public-reported video footage, that process coming after reporting on this website highlighted the lack of action in almost all cases.

At the time, the West Midlands' walking and cycling commissioner Adam Tranter wrote to the force's chief constable, Simon Guildford, raising concerns about the low prosecution rate. The force later admitted during the summer that it needed to adapt given the "50 per cent increase in third-party reporting" it said it had experienced.

Hinting at the strain on resources, West Midlands Police noted that reviews take an "average of 60 minutes to run from receipt to conclusion", and were being carried out by three business support assistants. Our analysis of the force's latest figures suggests improvements have been made, West Midlands Police also explaining that it has increased resource in the department in recent times.

Pickup driver chases cyclist after close pass (Jay McSerk, Twitter)

"The team goes from strength to strength," Sgt Jordan Keen who leads the team commented. "This is about educating drivers and preventing road users – be they cyclists, pedestrians or motorists – from being killed or seriously injured."

West Midlands Police's previously poor record with Operation Snap submissions was somewhat surprising considering the force had pioneered the the award-winning and now-ubiquitous Operation Close Pass, the work of Steve Hudson and Mark Hodson.

> Should dealing with third-party camera reports from cyclists be outsourced? Close pass op pioneer Mark Hodson on the road.cc Podcast

Overall, cyclist reports made up 39 per cent of the January submissions received, 38 per cent coming from motorists, and 23 per cent from pedestrians. In total, 94 per cent of submissions were actioned in some form, 37 per cent with a fixed-penalty notice, and 10 per cent in court. But how does all this translate into cyclists' real-world experience of cycling in the West Midlands?

"I do feel there's a definite effect"

One road.cc reader who penned a social media thread on the topic also looking at some of the numbers — and noting that West Midlands Police has gone from "82 per cent ignored to 94 per cent actioned" since June — told us that they do believe the increased Operation Snap action has led to fewer close passes and fewer drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel.

"The number of reports has more than doubled but I'm comparing January 2024 to June 2023, if this continues in June 2024, West Midlands Police is likely to see well over 1,000 [submissions] in June 2024," the road.cc reader whose X (formerly Twitter) account goes by the handle @jaj991 explained.

Driver close passing cyclist, Coventry (Twitter: @jaj991)

"Is 1,000 drivers getting warning letters, FPNs or court dates every month going to make a difference? From what I see it has already made a difference. Drivers are much more aware that they are being filmed, they drop their phones much faster, and there are fewer using phones.

"I'm getting fewer close passes so it does feel a little safer. I'm encountering a lot more angry shouty drivers, obviously the increased enforcement is starting to bite. This has only been running, with the new team, for six months so it's still early days.
Of course none of that is data, it's all anecdotal but I do feel there's a definite effect already."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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33 comments

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Hirsute | 1 month ago
5 likes

I've just done 3 submissions for a 4 mile round trip. Would have been one more, but  Iooked down at the speed and missed the reg. Pretty sure it was the same driver who close passed on the outward leg !

I used the same clip for 2 of then as I had 2 close passes in 2 seconds !

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hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
4 likes

If the police forces are having a big resource problem with getting staff to review the footage, then I'd like to see them ask for volunteers. I'm sure there's a lot of cyclists and safe road campaigners that would be willing to view footage and provide a summary that could then be actioned/verified by the police if it would save them time.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 1 month ago
1 like

Good lord - are you sure?

Are you certain that people interested in road safety will exceed the number of "I knows it when I sees it" folks with too much time on their hands?

Plus we know it's quicker to zip through and say "I don't see any issue" than explain where the problem is and justify that?

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FionaJJ | 1 month ago
7 likes

It's interesting to see that more submissions came from car drivers than from cyclists. Yet we are led to believe it's just cyclists who are jealous/snitches/perverts for caring about these things.

It's good to see the breakdown of different types of action, and I'd be keen to see something in a couple of years time to see if or how that has changed. In particular, if those previously given warning letters became repeat offenders, and if so - what happened next. I often see claims that warning letters are pointless, and the way some police services are using them to get out of proper enforcement, they might be right. However, if it is known the police will be less generous next time, they will have more power to change behaviour. In this case it seems like a decent distribution of action, suggesting some thought has been given to what is appropriate given the severity of the incident and quality of evidence.

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Hirsute replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
5 likes

Ah, but drivers only have dashcams for insurance purposes, whereas cyclists are vigilante, peeping toms who only have a camera to get likes and income on youtube.

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mctrials23 replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
13 likes

Well we cyclists only do it to prey on those poor motorists and indulge in our power fantasies of being coppers. Its genuinely funny that drivers think that cyclists want to worry about charging their camera, remembering to run it and then take the time and effort to report bad driving. I reckon that every cyclist with a camera would happily throw it away if drivers magically stopped driving like dangerous pricks tomorrow. 

Cyclists are just sick of it at this point and now that we have a way to fight back we are taking it. I haven't got a camera but I am damn well considering it. I want every driver to be scared of getting a letter through their door when they do something dangerous on our roads. I want them to pass me safely because they are scared of not doing it. Drivers need to be treated like children because they sure as hell can't behind like mature adults around cyclists.  

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Hirsute replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
5 likes

I got a camera after being fed up with the number of times I was cut up on roundabouts by drivers joining from the left and the number who'd pull out of side roads. Final straw was a close pass where 50m or so further along they managed to mount the verge (luckily for them no kerb).

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Sriracha replied to Hirsute | 1 month ago
3 likes
Hirsute wrote:

Final straw was a close pass where 50m or so further along they managed to mount the verge (luckily for them no kerb).

Have some sympathy - have you ever tried driving a 1.5 tonne lump in a straight line whilst keeping abreast of your social media?!

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NOtotheEU replied to mctrials23 | 1 month ago
1 like

mctrials23 wrote:

I reckon that every cyclist with a camera would happily throw it away if drivers magically stopped driving like dangerous pricks tomorrow. 

I would happily ditch the cameras and save loads of time and money so fingers crossed. 

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squidgy replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
3 likes

"It's interesting to see that more submissions came from car drivers than from cyclists. "
I was told exactly the same by Kent police after I complained that none of the reports I made as a driver were actioned. I was told in a phone conversation that due to limited resources and the overwhelming number of reports they receive, they will prioritise reports from vulnerable road users, i.e. pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, motorcyclists over reports from drivers .

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mattw replied to squidgy | 1 month ago
0 likes

Aren't Kent police the ones with the double contact process - where you submit a report, and have to send in video footage when they come back to you?

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KentRider replied to mattw | 1 month ago
3 likes

Yes, this is correct. Mostly, Kent Police's decisions are made without even viewing the evidence. You have to state in the report whether there was a collision. They have told me in writing that if the answer is no the report is deprioritised.

Interestingly, my most recent report did generate a request for the video, which is unusual. It became clear that the thing that had made the difference was that an object had been thrown at me from the car during the incident (a close-pass, followed by a brake-check, followed by a second even closer pass and the object being thrown, followed by forcing me off the road by veering hard left whilst alongside me). Because the object hit me, the incident was categorised as Common Assault, and it was assigned a crime reference.

The throwing of the object (a pen) was obviously unacceptable, but in terms of the danger posed it was nothing compared with being driven off the road, or indeed any of the other close passes that I've reported over the years only for Kent Police to ignore.

The different reaction to my report on this occasion illustrates how severely underappreciated the seriousness of close-passes are in law compared with other forms of threat.

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stonojnr replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
0 likes

youll hit GDPR trying to FOI for details on repeat offender numbers like that, even though its something the police must track to be confident the existing enforcement works.

and you only have to watch some of those dashcam clip series on youtube to get a flavour of the kinds of stuff people are reporting as drivers vs NMOTD style we see as cyclists.

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FionaJJ replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
3 likes

I was thinking more of the police themselves keeping track, then in the future publishing a summary linking back to previous years, as well as the current year.

I'm not sure which aspect of GDPR you think would be a problem. No identifiable information would need to be given, although if a single person was convicted (whose name you could find out in the local paper) and they said they'd previously received a warning for X offence, but if it is considered for sentencing, or how they approach multiple offences, I'm not convinced it's a breach.

If you are thinking that the police need to delete records where there is no conviction after a certain period, then that might be relevant. But public bodies are allowed to hold records for as long as they need them. If the police have a policy of considering previous warnings, then they should be able to keep the necessary records.

It's a while since I last did GDPR training, and I'm sure there will be experts who can tell me I'm wrong on particular issues, but organisations too often use GDPR as an excuse for not providing relevant information, when in reality it's because they've not implemented adequate record keeping, or want to spent time on sorting through what they do hold. 

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hawkinspeter replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
2 likes

FionaJJ wrote:

I was thinking more of the police themselves keeping track, then in the future publishing a summary linking back to previous years, as well as the current year.

I'm not sure which aspect of GDPR you think would be a problem. No identifiable information would need to be given, although if a single person was convicted (whose name you could find out in the local paper) and they said they'd previously received a warning for X offence, but if it is considered for sentencing, or how they approach multiple offences, I'm not convinced it's a breach.

If you are thinking that the police need to delete records where there is no conviction after a certain period, then that might be relevant. But public bodies are allowed to hold records for as long as they need them. If the police have a policy of considering previous warnings, then they should be able to keep the necessary records.

It's a while since I last did GDPR training, and I'm sure there will be experts who can tell me I'm wrong on particular issues, but organisations too often use GDPR as an excuse for not providing relevant information, when in reality it's because they've not implemented adequate record keeping, or want to spent time on sorting through what they do hold. 

As I recall, there's specific GDPR exemptions for the purposes of crime prevention and detection. Businesses can keep personal identifying information (PII) for the purposes of preventing fraud etc and certainly the police would easily be able to show that they had a valid reason for keeping the information. However, it would be difficult to justify giving out PII to uninvolved members of the public and I think it wouldn't be a good idea, but I think it's worth them informing the witness/victim of the outcome of submitting video evidence as that can encourage people to continue to do so.

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wtjs replied to FionaJJ | 1 month ago
2 likes

I hope this answers your question about which aspect of GDPR you think would be a problem

I'm not sure which aspect of GDPR you think would be a problem. No identifiable information would need to be given, although if a single person was convicted (whose name you could find out in the local paper) and they said they'd previously received a warning for X offence, but if it is considered for sentencing, or how they approach multiple offences, I'm not convinced it's a breach

Then you'd better look at this. It's an Information Commissioner decision notice (DN) which states that the police may refuse to even admit that they hold any information about the 'alleged offence' never mind refusing to tell you what they did about the offence, even after the police have written that they are going to take action. The offence in this case is this:

https://upride.cc/incident/4148vz_travellerschoicecoach_closepass/

This paragraph from the DN...

21. Criminal offence data is particularly sensitive and therefore warrants special protection. It can only be processed, which includes confirming or denying whether the information is held in response to an FOIA request, if one of the stringent conditions of Schedule 1, Parts 1 to 3 of the DPA 2018 can be met.

... indicates that the police must not disclose that information. The Commissioner holds to that interpretation even after being provided with proof not only that Lancashire Constabulary has indeed provided that information about other offences several times in the past (you know! the driver who committed the offence shown in the video you sent us where the registration is clearly visible was sent on a course, received an advice letter, etc) but that other forces provide such information routinely! This is not surprising, coming from the Information Commissioner who is appointed to assist public bodies in keeping disquieting information secret, but it is more depressing when this position is confirmed by the Information Tribunal. I am presently applying for permission to appeal to the Upper Tier Tribunal, which is definitely a proper court, but I'm not very hopeful.

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wtjs replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
1 like

youll hit GDPR trying to FOI for details on repeat offender numbers like that, even though its something the police must track to be confident the existing enforcement works

They're not interested in finding out whether the existing enforcement works! Or, to put it more accurately, they're interested in not finding out that the existing enforcement (generally none, where offences against cyclists are concerned) doesn't work- because offences against cyclists are not seen by most UK forces as real offences. We have approaching 1000 NMotDs to show us that. We see below that Kent Police require a KSI'd cyclist before they reluctantly fail to push the Bin button on reports of such offences- even then, they're hoping to deploy the 'insufficient evidence' or 'cyclist fault for swearing' dodges.

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ubercurmudgeon | 1 month ago
5 likes

Has someone retired recently? Someone whose leaving presents were a box-set of Clarkson DVDs and card saying, "Good luck running as the Reform UK candidate in the next election"?

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TimPedaller | 1 month ago
3 likes

"prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports"

This headline could mean one driver was prosecuted after being reported 286 times...

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NOtotheEU replied to TimPedaller | 1 month ago
10 likes

TimPedaller wrote:

"prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports"

This headline could mean one driver was prosecuted after being reported 286 times...

Don't knock them, at least they got there in the end!

On a similar but serious note, I reported a close pass late last year and WMP told me they were getting a FPN. A month later to the day the same car (I assume driver also) made an even worse close (revenge?) pass and the police told me this time it was going to court.

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Sriracha | 1 month ago
2 likes
Quote:

Police force that prosecuted one driver from 286 close pass reports now taking action in 97% of cyclist submissions

Slightly misleading headline, gives the impression things have gone from 1/286 to 97%. But we're not comparing the same things. Prosecutions have gone from 1/286 to 4%, according to the article. Nice, but not as wild as the headline suggests.

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NOtotheEU | 1 month ago
6 likes

I've been getting feedback for most of my recent reports with 3 saying they would end up court. I had been a little sceptical given past performance but it seems they are doing what they say. Still no final outcomes being reported but if that means they have more time to watch videos then I have no complaints.
I've also seen less close passes and dangerous driving in the last few months so it seems to be improving.
Of course I'm about to ride home so I've probably just guaranteed myself a hellish journey after those comments.

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mctrials23 replied to NOtotheEU | 1 month ago
3 likes

Bit depressing that the only thing making our roads safer is the fear of prosecution but honestly I don't give a damn what causes safer roads for us. 

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Bungle_52 | 1 month ago
4 likes

How many man hours of officers time is taken to run an "operation close pass"? How many man hours of "business support assistants", which are presumably cheaper, to process these reports? Which gives the best value for money? Which has a greater impact on driving habits around cyclists?

Just like to remind everyone that Gloucestershire has gone in the opposite direction with around 50% NFA for cyclists reports in January 23 to 100% NFA in December 23. This info had to be obtained using FOI which then had to be chased up because the force failed to meet the deadline for publishing it.

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LeadenSkies replied to Bungle_52 | 1 month ago
1 like

Not in any way excusing it, if it were, but given most of the departments dealing with these reports are pretty much one person and a computer, that could be explained by someone leaving their job. Needs better resourcing so the service is resilient but with the "war on the motorist" and the current state of the public purse, I don't see that happening any time soon.

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Bungle_52 replied to LeadenSkies | 1 month ago
1 like

It could be but I'm pretty sure it's at least partly a resourcing issue. Here are 3 links from the local news site regarding lack of resources. The second one is where they apologised for the delay in releasing the FOI data.

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/gloucestershi...

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/cheltenham-news/gloucestershi...

https://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk/news/gloucester-news/government-cu...

 

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mitsky | 1 month ago
5 likes

Whilst WMP have gone in a positive direction it seems that the Met police have gone the other way.
I used to have about 75% or more of my reports actioned with an NIP.
That was prior to 2022.
Since then, for identically comparable incidents I'd be lucky to get 10% of them actioned.

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stonojnr replied to mitsky | 1 month ago
3 likes

Ive given up with my local force, havent reported anything for a year now, wasnt getting much feedback, or action being taken, they dont publish any stats anymore, probably because theyre down alot since they made it much harder to report online, theyve halved the allowed reporting time to 7 days instead of 14, have repeatedly due to resourcing issues over Christmas stopped taking any submissions at all and it really wasnt making any difference to how drivers were behaving on roads around me.

no one overtakes me, or gives me the space ever fearing Ive got a camera, or theyll get letters from the police about it.

which means they miss stuff like this, and yes that is a single track road and yes that is a passing point just up ahead where the white car is, who Id let pass at the last passing point.

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Bungle_52 replied to stonojnr | 1 month ago
2 likes

I can understand, and empathise, with your frustration. Reporting is a time consuming and expensive activity but if we don't carry on doing it the police forces won't have the stats to ask for more resources. Drivers may be getting away with it now but that was the case in the West Midlands until recently. It's the pressure that has been put on them by cyclists submissions and presumably the emabarrasment of having to publish the data they did, that has led to improvements. It's going to be more and more difficult for forces to ignore reports but we need to keep up the pressure.

What force are you in by the way, if you don't mind me asking.

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stonojnr replied to Bungle_52 | 1 month ago
1 like

its Suffolk, but run as a joint operation snap with Norfolk, which just seems to spread any limited resource for it even more thinly.

their approach to it just seems to be going backwards, theres no embarrasment from data, if they dont publish it, and no pressure from submissions if the criteria they use to accept those submissions kind of creates more of a barrier, I dont think their websites even mention "close pass" as a thing anymore, or if it does its well hidden.

this highlights the issue I think, over 40,000 letters were generated last year from a set of ten speed indicator anpr cameras they have that move around the county, there are more speed indicators, but only 10 cameras, drivers dont get fined just warning letters.

https://www.eadt.co.uk/news/23803657.400-000-camera-scheme-reveal-suffol...

a month after that the PCC announced "proactive speed enforcement in Suffolk will take place only in locations or stretches of road where there is a history of collisions involving injury or evidence of an on-going risk of fatal or serious collisions"

that sound much like theyre that interested in enforcement of anything that doesnt involve a collision or injury anymore, like say a close pass on a cyclist  ?

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