Why Did The Policeman Cross the Road?

By Stevyn Colgan

Not so much police intelligence as intelligent policing

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Freakin' Awesome

I'm sure you've heard of Freakonomics.

It all started with a 2005 book by economist Steven D Levitt and journalist Stephen J Dubner called Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. If you've not read it, please do so; it's brilliant. What Levitt and Dubner do is strip away the hype, the spin, the rhetoric and the polemic to reveal the statistical evidence at the heart of subjects as varied as Sumo wrestling, drug dealing, real estate and even the socioeconomic patterns of naming children. To date the book has sold 5.5 million copies and has been translated into 40 languages. In 2009, a sequel called SuperFreakonomics looked at drunk walking, the economics of prostitution, and how to stop global warming among tother things. To date, that book has sold 1.5 million copies. Two further books - Think Like a Freak (2014) and When to Rob a Bank - were also bestsellers. In addition, they've been keeping a blog for 10 years and Dubner has been putting out a free weekly podcast which regularly tops the chart and gets, on average, around seven million monthly downloads. Freakonomics is a phenomenon. There was even Freakonomics: The Movie.

Which is why I'm delighted that Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road? has taken a tentative step into their world.

As I reported on an earlier shedpost, I met Stephen J Dubner earlier this year and we had a chance to discuss various subjects. The result of the conversation was that I promised to send him an early draft of the book in case there's anything there that might interest the Freakonomics audience.

Well, there was. Last week's and this week's podcasts look at some of the extraordinary work being done to bring behavioural economics and cognitive behaviour theory into crime prevention - subjects very close to my heart. Here are links to the two podcasts. Like all of the episodes (and there are over 200 available), they are fascinating and well worth a listen:

Part 1: Preventing crime for pennies on the dollar.

Audio (also available from iTunes and other download sites) and Transcript.

Part 2: 'I don't know what you've done to my husband but he's a changed man'.

Audio (ditto) and Transcript.

At the very end of Part 2, you'll hear that I get a mention. And so does a short quote from Why Did The Policeman Cross The Road? And then Stephen says:

'All this has made me want to make a future episode – or maybe several, actually – about policing and crime. Working title: “What Are Cops For?” I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic from any angle at all, or any suggestions for what kind of stories we should tell, what kind of data we should pursue. Write to us at radio@freakonomics.com, or give a shout on Twitter.'

I'll be involved in the show. And, if you have any thoughts on the matter, you can have your say too. Either email Stephen at the address above or leave a comment under this shed post and I'll pass it on to him.

It's going to be a very interesting show.

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Ruth Curtis
 Ruth Curtis says:

Having just had close contact with various police officers, I am pleased to be a satisfied member of the public. During the course of my contact, when thanking them, I was told by more than one officer "That's what we're here for".

I think we often forget the role police officers have in dealing with members of the public. I was involved in a car crash. I don't know exactly what happened but both myself and the driver of the other car were relatively uninjured (I have a lot of bruises and he was a little bit shocked). My car is certainly a write-off. I don't know about his. One of the two attending police officers said he wouldn't be able to sleep at night if they didn't get an ambulance out to me. As it happens, no ambulances were available (thankfully, as I don't think I needed one). I hope he got some sleep!

A PCSO also attended and he brought me (and the contents of my car) home. On his request, another officer came round this morning to check I am ok. She also said that is what they are there for.

If this is what cops are for then the ones I encountered are getting it right.

posted 18th September 2015

Craig Lewis
 Craig Lewis says:

I completely agree with the above comment - I have regular catch ups with our local PCSO through work and 95% of the contact I've had with the police, professionally and personally, has been handled superbly. In most cases where there have been issues it hasn't been the front line guys but the person working the front desk where things have gone amiss, and that's perhaps not surprising when you consider how much you need to know to be able to answer authoritatively on anything the public might ask.

As with everything, people forget the nine out of ten things you did right and scream about the one you got wrong... even if you didn't get it wrong at all but they don't understand enough to appreciate that! :)

posted 18th September 2015

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