Posted by: mikepearsonnz | August 27, 2010

How to innovate NZ Police?

Car Crash - Stourbridge

Image by Ian Hampton via Flickr

In light of yet another death resulting from a New Zealand police pursuit, perhaps its time we discussed other creative solutions to encourage better driving behaviour.

New Zealand Police suffer from Baumol’s Cost Disease, (a rise of salaries with little corresponding increase in productivity), just like all other government departments.   By investing in technology, they can become more productive in road safety.

Mike’s Law #1: “Over time, people always get more expensive, but technology gets more affordable”

So to get the debate going, here’s a technology suggestion that might offer better outcomes, such as:

  • increase in voluntary compliance
  • reduction in staff costs
  • increased detection of offenses
  • increase in intelligence information
  • increase in public safety

Since we’re effectively talking about law enforcement technology, then it also stirs up debate on peoples rights and privacy.   We should not discard technology because it raises these issues.  Rather we need to ensure a wider ranging debate on the proper use of the technology.

RFID vehicle identification

Imagine if every number plate had an RFID tag.  And there were readers at set points.

How far can you track an item with RFID?  According to this white paper about 66m, although practically I suspect about 12m.    This is using an RFID tag that would cost less than $1.

Interesting side note: the white paper refers to RFID technology in driver licenses – I’m actually being less aggressive and suggesting applying it to cars 🙂

No more speed cameras

There would be no more speed cameras.  No more people driving around in vans, consuming petrol and requiring maintenance.

Your average speed between two RFID readers would be calculated, and the $amount and link to your infringement notice on the NZ Police document store would be texted to your mobile.

There would be less paper and faster recognition of poor driving behaviour.

At your next stop, you could check your messages and be reminded to drive more slowly.  Ideally you would be able to click on the link and “pay now”.

Less paper, online completion of the transaction increasing productivity for all parties involved.

Greater voluntary compliance

“Speed over distance” checking will change driver behaviour, as there is less opportunity to avoid detection.  The Australians already use this method with their camera-based number plate recognition systems.

Reduced need for high-speed pursuits

There would be less need for high-speed pursuits, so long as the vehicle has a valid RFID tag.  Officers can identify the vehicle, as soon as it passed a reader, even in poor lighting conditions.

Perhaps certain cars might even have a high-powered reader, to enable reading at a longer range?

Reduction in stolen vehicles

Stolen vehicles would leave an electronic bread crumb trail, as they moved past RFID readers.   Perhaps the police would place mobile readers, in the same way they move around speed cameras.  That back country road might not be as “back country” as you thought.  No cop car in sight, but two small readers in the bushes 🙂

Combine that with real-time wireless technology, and you can bring up an alert on a car of interest.

Automated RFID verification

Obviously there will be an incentive to remove or swap RFID tags (for every measure there is a counter measure).  So we would also need automated verification points.   These camera recognition checkpoints could automatically check colour, make and RFID tag. Logically petrol stations would be an ideal place, as cars visit them regularly and the supply of petrol could be refused if the car was not legal. You could also link in automated warrant of fitness and valid registration checks at the same point.

How can NZ Police innovate using technology?

This blog post is just a quick example of using a proven technology in an innovative way.   If you’ve got any other ideas, post them up as a comment on the posting, and we can discuss them.

I was always impressed by the creative thinking of the current Commissioner of Police,  Howard Broad in workshops I attended.  Similarly I know a number of other senior managers in our police force who would appreciate smarter policing.

So I’m puzzled about why we see little discussion of technology solutions for NZ policing?



  1. Hi Mike,

    What you’re proposing is a bit too far down 1984. The thing is police must be able to catch criminals not the odd law abiding citizen going 120km/h on SH1. The cameras are sufficient at keeping them at bay.

    The problem are the >1% criminals that are causing dangerous situations and they won’t have RFID. They will have a 1000 ways to get around any system you put in place.

    My solution would be to crowd source the observation part. Twitter is already full of mentions of where behaviour (esp. in traffic) is not PC. Then the police needs to intelligently filter the interesting information from the bad. That can be done by technology but also needs manual oversight.

    The idea is not to write infringements but to get the information on who is criminal and where they are.

    You will only dinish the risk of speed chases by getting those people off the roads before they actually get the chance to commit a real crime.


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