Last week we climbed onto our high horses and defended ourselves - and you - against claims made by
the Assistant Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police. Specifically,
we wanted to dispute his claim that one in four bikers stopped
for speeding had a criminal record.
Our issue was simple. After doing some homework
we showed that, in fact, nearly one in four of the adult population
has a criminal record. More if you look at men alone. So why
didn't Mr Collins mention that instea dof demonising motorcyclists?
We invited a response and undertook to print it, unedited,
when it arrived.
We didn't get
a written response from North Yorkshire Police. We
got something far better - Mr Collins got on the phone himself
and spent the best part of an hour explaining himself, his
policies and his statement.
The big surprise, and it shouldn't have
been really because we have spoken before, is that Mr Collins
is not a rabid anti-bike loony. Far from it. Though he readily
admits that he isn't a biker himself he has many friends and
colleagues who are bikers and sees the attraction.
So first of all we talked about speed in general and the
current policies. He argues, and it's hard to disagree, that
with a 50% casualty reduction since the get tough policy started
it's clearly working. But he also accepts that there is a
need to look at all the factors - traffic volumes, weather
and so on - before hailing it as a huge victory. He then went
on to say that even though the reduction is good news, 12
people still lost their lives and he finds it difficult to
celebrate knowing that. Fair enough - he obviously cares passionately
about what he is trying to achieve and we can't really criticise
Then we talked about That Statistic. He stood by the claim
that one in for motorists stopped for extreme speeding had
criminal records. We reminded him that his statement actually
only mentioned motorcyclists. And his response? "No,
that's wrong and misleading." He went on to say that
motorcyclists are no worse than any other group stopped and
took our attack in the spirit that it was meant - as a defence
of motorcyclists and not necessarily as an attack on his policies.
But then things got very interesting indeed, because we started
to look at the facts around the criminal record thing. And
while we may all roll our eyes and grumble about the Police
having better things to do than chase speeding bikers, the
fact is that while this has been going on other crimes - burglaries
and the like have gone down while clearup rates have improved.
Because the villains are getting nicked for speeding and their
cars are getting looked over and lo and behold what's this
video doing in the back, sir?
More drink drivers, more disqualified drivers and more uninsured
drivers are getting nicked and taken off the road. And that's
got to be good for all of us. I don't have the exact percentages
but they were impressive.
I understand that North Yorkshire Police
use the National Intelligence Model to target their resources.
That's basically a huge database of known criminals, vehicles,
habits, methods and so on, and the more data that goes in
the more accurately resources can be targetted. Mr Collins
still maintains that people who really take the proverbial
with speeding are the same people who park in disabled bays
and block box junctions because on the road they just don't
care about anyone else. And a significant proportion of them,
it seems, did a bit of petty thievery at school and have since
made it either an income booster or a career choice. Right
now it looks as though he may be right, too.
Mr Collins is a man on a mission. He wants people to think
about what they do and to make his officers ring fewer doorbells
to say that someone isn't coming home. If he says things that
are controversial, outrageous even, he's achieving that goal
to some extent. So you don't have to like what he says, but
ignoring him would be a mistake. He's man enough to admit
that he was wrong on the occasions that he is, and that deserves
credit. But even though he was factually incorrect, it's generated
a lot of column inches and provoked a lot of discussion.
So maybe he's not so daft after all?