Why Did The Policeman Cross the Road?

By Stevyn Colgan

Not so much police intelligence as intelligent policing

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Think of Me. Keep it Free.


Remember the furore back in April 2013 when chancellor George Osborne was spotted parking in a disabled bay? It's amazing how quickly people forget things like that. What a shameful thing for anyone to do, let alone a senior politician with control over benefits and disability issues.

However, having seen a similar blatant misuse of a disabled bay in London yesterday I thought I'd pass on a simple, low-cost, high impact method for reducing this kind of outrageously uncaring and ignorant behaviour.

The secret is to give the victim a face. Like most offenders the bad guys don't generally want their victims personalised; that makes the crime too complicated and emotive. Guilt will kick in. Domestic burglars don't want to meet you so they wait until your house is empty, for example. With no victim immediately apparent the crime feels victimless. So what use is signage like this?

It's almost of no use at all. Is the victim apparent? Not at all. There's just the sandard abstract representation of a wheelchair user and it's not going to engage the guilt of the potential offender.

So, give them something to feel guilty about - put a face to the victim like this:

The effects can be extraordinary.

In behavioural expert Dan Pink's excellent 2013 TV series Crowd Control (watch the clip at the top of this shedpost or on  YouTube here along with other excellent clips from the series) he selected a parking area where people regularly offended and set up the new signange. After a month of observation not one person had illegally parked in a disabled bay.

So why doesn't everyone use this technique? It's so simple and so effective. Come on councils and supermarkets - do your bit!

P.s. Some people have decided that they can't wait for car park owners to get their act together and have taken direct action. One such example involved having stickers made up that were posted on offenders' cars. I wouldn't necessarily advocate that and I don't condone criminal damage. But the naughty boy in me secretly giggles. And wonders if they used superglue as a fixative.

P.p.s. When I was a cop it was always productive to hide near disabled parking bays and to spring out and nab people parking illegally. It regularly netted me some good arrests in the form of people with outstanding warrants. After all, it's not a real surprise to discover that someone who is wanted for committing a crime, or who fails to answer summonses, or who fails to pay fines, probably wouldn't be that bothered about inconveniencing a disabled person either.


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Vaun earl Norman
 Vaun earl Norman says:

Excellent piece, as a blue badge holder, I find people just don't care even if I make comment in a supermarket car park. They just literally don't care.

posted 10th March 2015

Stevyn Colgan
 Stevyn Colgan says:

Vaun - Yes I know. It's very sad. There will always be the hardliners who simply don't give a flying fudge. However, most decent - if occasionally unthinking - people do respond to the personal appeal much more often than to some faceless graphic symbolising disability.

posted 10th March 2015

Steve O'Hear
 Steve O'Hear says:

As effective as this approach may be (in the short term at least), disabled people don't want the image as 'victim' reinforced with over-emotive billboards or signs. That's the flaw in your proposal.

posted 10th March 2015

Stevyn Colgan
 Stevyn Colgan says:

Steve - I hear your point. It's always been a tricky balancing act trying to protect people without creating a sense of patronisation or powerlessness in potential victims. The problem is getting people to register the fact that by illegally using a disabled bay they're inconveniencing a real person. That's a tough call because the 'I'll only be five minutes' factor coupled with a faceless victim outweighs social responsibility in so many cases (even among politicians). It must be stressed that the video features an initiative that was fully supported by the local disabled community. That same community also took park in very proactive targeting of miscreant drivers and also staged 'block-ins' where a disabled person's minibus blocked in an illegally parked car and made the driver wait while wheelchair users were very slowly debussed. All the time, the shamed driver was engaged in conversation to make them realise the impact of their hasty and selfish decision. The community in this particular case were certainly not passive victims! :D

posted 10th March 2015

Ruth Curtis
 Ruth Curtis says:

I once tried engaging in conversation a truck driver who had parked across 4 blue badge bays at a supermarket. I sought the help of an employee who did nothing. Spoke to the driver and passenger myself. Tried personalising it and eventually drove my car into position to block him in. I moved it as soon as asked to do so by a supermarket employee. This driver and passenger remained completely unrepentant throughout claiming they would have had to park further away to do their shopping grrrrrrrrrrr!

posted 10th March 2015

Stevyn Colgan
 Stevyn Colgan says:

Ruth - Sadly, some people will respond to nothing except punishment. Difficult on private property (such as a supermarket) to implement. If they were serious in their commitment to supporting disabled people they could impose penalties such as store bans etc. but that means fewer profits. Sigh.

posted 10th March 2015

Chris Emerson
 Chris Emerson says:

You know those paper wristbands you get, where the adhesive part is finely spaced zig-zag perforations? The idea is that it's impossible to take the wristband off without totally destroying that part and the adhesive, because everything just rips off in small sections.

I often think about how great it would be to make a sticker (like those mentioned in your post) in that way, so that it doesn't do any damage, it's just an absolute PITA to remove and takes a lot of time since it'll only come off in tiny tiny strips at a time.

Evil me thinks that anyway, normal me wouldn't ever possibly consider it of course...

posted 10th March 2015

Stevyn Colgan
 Stevyn Colgan says:

Chris - Ha! Of course I could never condone such a thing ...

I do remember years ago that the 'Police Aware' notices that the councils put on apparently abandoned cars were incredibly sticky and shredded easily. They needed removal with a razor or paint scraper but caused no damage being on glass. I reckon they put some people off parking there again.

posted 10th March 2015

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