The Big brother approach by police has been criticised
Daily Mail | Sep 19, 2010
By James Slack and Jack Doyle
Police are asking motorists to spy on each other for examples of poor driving in an alarming new extension of the ‘Big Brother’ state.
Drivers are told to be on the look out for inconsiderate driving or anybody making ‘excessive noise’ with their car.
Detailed reports – which critics warn could easily be malicious accusations against neighbours – are submitted to the police, who log extensive details on a huge computer database.
The details are also checked against DVLA databases and the Police National Computer.
Anybody who is reported twice in 12 months faces police action – despite never being caught breaking the law.
Officers say they can be considered ‘repeat offenders’.
The action could involve a warning letter or even a knock on the door from a police officer.
The force that is piloting the scheme, Sussex, has already received 20,488 reports.
They are made online – with the accused driver never knowing who is responsible.
Freedom of Information requests reveal 2,695 drivers have received ‘letters of advice following reports of their driving’.
A further 1,047 drivers have had ‘sanctions imposed on them’. This happens when the reports lead to police discovering offences such as an out-of-date tax disc.
Police say it protects the public against dangerous drivers.
Critics have likened the scheme to the East German Stasi – which encouraged residents to inform upon one another.
If successful, the so-called Operation Crackdown it is likely to be rolled out nationwide.
Dylan Sharpe, campaign director of Big Brother Watch, who uncovered the scheme, said the ‘whole process is based on unfounded accusations by untrained and possibly prejudiced members of the public.
He added: ‘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.
‘It is the worst example of citizen snooping and clearly doesn’t work. Sussex Police would be advised to stop spending taxpayers money promoting this intrusive scheme’
The scheme is being promoted using a taxpayer-funded newsletter, called Vibe.
It says: ‘Are you fed up with anti-social drivers? People who still use their mobile phones while driving, not wearing seat belts or those who insist on getting right up your bumper and are really annoying and dangerous to others.’
Under the section headed, If you See Someone Driving Antisocially, it says; ‘Pull over safely at the side of the road, or ask a passenger to write down details.
‘Record the make, model, colour and number plate of the vehicle.
‘To help pin-point where you saw the incident..use house numbers, road names or shop names. Write down what you saw as soon as you can, so it’s fresh in your mind.
It goes on: ‘All reports remain live for a period of two months and a vehicle is automatically ‘flagged up’ if it is reported more than once.
‘This allows some form of intervention on repeat offenders.’
Police defend the scheme on the grounds it stops anti-social behaviour on the roads.
The Operation Crackdown website can also be used to report motorists who are actually breaking the law, by not wearing a seatbelt, or driving under the influence of drink or drugs.
It is not clear how fellow drivers or pedestrians are supposed to know whether a person behind the wheel has been drinking.
The scheme is run jointly by the police and council, through a so-called safer Communities Partnership.
There have been numerous other examples of Town halls using Stasi-like tactics. These include asking friendly residents to place CCTV cameras in their windows, to film public land.
The intention is to catch people putting out their rubbish on the wrong day so they can be punished for fly-tipping.
Images from the cameras can be viewed on a computer and accessed remotely by CCTV control rooms open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The evidence can be used to take people to court.
In the FOI response, Sussex Police said that, as a result of Operation Crackdown, ‘1,047 drivers have had sanctions imposed on them including 28 for driving whilst under the influence, 175 vehicles have been seized for being driven without insurance, 376 have been reported to the DVLA for document offences and local councils have seized 64 vehicles for not having current road fund licence.’