Why Did The Policeman Cross the Road?
By Stevyn Colgan
Not so much police intelligence as intelligent policing
About the book
How did a teenage wizard foil teams of illegal street gamblers?
How do smokers help prevent your car being broken into?
What do sex workers and tiger farms have in common?
Why do bees make the best sheepdogs for elephants?
And how do the phantom bus stops of Dusseldorf keep vulnerable old people safe?
What links these seemingly unconnected questions is good problem-solving.
Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist and popular public speaker. He’s one of the writers of the hugely successful BBC TV series QI andThe Museum of Curiosity. But, in a previous career, he spent 30 years as a police officer in London during which he became involved in a small but potent revolution. He and some of his colleagues realised that there was a smarter way to tackle crime and public concerns that didn’t always mean clogging the judicial system with copious arrests or flooding the streets with extra cops. This new style of intelligent problem-solving policing took the cleverest ideas from academic research, military strategy, business, marketing, public health and many other areas of work, mixed them all up with a good dollop of original thinking and solved problems that had previously been labelled as unsolvable.
In this remarkable book, he tells the story of his work in Scotland Yard’s innovative Problem Solving Unit and how the team tackled some of London’s most persistent problems. Along the way, you’ll find out how dog shows stopped young men killing each other, how lollipops prevented night club closures, how wheelie bins worked in cahoots with burglars, and why celebrities should be covered in chewing gum. You’ll also discover how bird tables can prevent car crashes, how fake vomit can clean up the streets, and why sitting down in Japan may just result in a sore bottom.
Why did the Policeman Cross the Road? is a celebration of original thinking, peppered with fascinating research and entertaining stories in the tradition of books such as Levitt and Dubner’s Freakonomics, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk.
And it’s more than possible that the book contains some little tool or technique that could help you solve some of the problems in your own life.
Stevyn, the premise for your book could be used also to justify the surveillance state we live in. Will your work discuss the ethical boundaries of that kind of "problem solving"? I believe that including that kind of conversation in the book would elevate it from a collection of anecdotes into food for thought. Good luck with the funding!
Hi Gianfranco, Yes indeed, CCTV is discussed as is the use of other technologies that could be seen as either 'preventative' or 'oppressive' depending on your viewpoint. I'm thinking in particular of devices like the Mosquito: effectively a sonic weapon solely designed to irritate and disperse children which many local authorities bought into but which the police service, as a whole, didn't. The importance of ethical behaviour is a golden thread that runs throughout the book. Steve
Hi Steve, do you think publication of your book is looking likely in the next 3 months?
I'd love that to be the case! The reality, however, is sadly no. The book is only at 53% funded at this time and needs to be at 100% to meet production costs. Even when the total is reached, there will then be the process of editing, proofreading, typesetting, design and printing to go through which, at a conservative estimate, is a minimum of three months' work. One of the joys, but also the pains, of crowd-funded publishing is that there's nowhere to hide; the entire process is transparent. What's happening with my book is no different a process than what happens with traditional publishing - a book may not hit the shops for a year, maybe even two years, after being bought by the publisher. But the first the buyer knows of the book is when it appears in the shops and can be purchased. With Unbound, the reader puts the money up front and, unfortunately, then has to endure that wait knowing that the book takes time to create. The sooner I'm funded, the sooner the book will be a reality. I can't wait. I think it's the best thing I've ever produced and I hope it will have been worth the wait. S
Not a question but a comment - CONGRATULATIONS! My book arrived today, I've read the first two chapters and I'm really enjoying it so far. Thrilled for you. (Anyone who's appeared on stage with the Pogues is alright by me).
Thanks so much Jo! The book was a labour of love and took up 8 years of my life. But it would never have happened without people like YOU. That's the wonderful thing about Unbound - readers make books happen. Stevyn x
Are you aware of any issues with the .mobi format on Kindle. I'm copying it over but it appears on my device with a title of 'Untitled-1'. I'm going to edit the metadata to fix it but I suspect i'm not alone...
I'm wasn't aware but I've just loaded it onto my Kindle and it does the same thing. I'll get on to Unbound. Thanks for letting me know. Hope you enjoy the book regardless :)