Lancashire Wins the Goldstein Award Again
For several years, attendees at the annual Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) Conference have become familiar with the Lancashire Constabulary in the United Kingdom. Since 2003, problem-solving projects submitted by the Lancashire Constabulary have been among the finalists for the prestigious Herman Goldstein Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing Award. Last year, the Lancashire Constabulary won for a project focused on problem families. This year, Lancashire repeated that success, with Constable Keith Collins accepting the top honor for a multilayered project that focused on problems related to numerous road accidents in a rural area.
The Lune Valley is an agricultural hub that generates more than one third of North Lancashire’s revenue. In 2006, 48 highway-disruption accidents affected road clean-up costs, insurance costs, vehicle damage, and even led to a loss of life. Further analysis revealed that accidents involving a serious injury cost an estimated $284,000 and sligh-injury accidents cost about $28,000 in road-cleansing operations. In response, the Lancashire Constabulary, through “Operation Pasture,” focused on reducing road casualties in the rural communities of Lancashire.
In studying the problem using the SARA process (scanning, analysis, response and assessment), Constable Keith Collins learned that rural roads in the Lake District National Park had the third-worst rate of collisions in the U.K., with farm vehicles involved in a majority of the accidents. A record rainfall, the most rain since 1766, contributed to the problem by generating mud that the farm vehicles would drag onto the main roadways creating a hazard for other drivers. In addition, farmers entering and exiting the roads from fields had limited forward visibility due to overgrown vegetation which added to the problem.
Constable Collins secured support from the community including farmers, non-farmers, vehicle and motorcycle drivers, and the National Farmers Union, a local authority, to address the problem. The collaboration led to the development of a three-point plan to increase awareness, education, and to form partnerships. Beginning in 2004, the Lancashire Constabulary focused on enforcement and checked agriculture vehicles for deficiencies. Approximately 90 percent of the 210 farm vehicles inspected revealed serious problems. The next year only 24 vehicles had defects, representing an improvement of 64 percent. Improved maintenance, however, did not significantly reduce the number of collisions involving either muddy roadways and/or agriculture vehicles. Nor did it improve relations between the police and the farmers. “Whilst my analysis identified that enforcement proved useful addressing mechanical deficiencies on farm vehicles,” said Collins, “it was actually acting like a demolition team pulling apart the fabric of trust amongst the farmers.” In 2006, a more thorough analysis of the situation revealed that the farmers did not think that collisions involving farm-vehicles was even a problem.
Because of the divide between the Lancashire Constabulary and the farming community, Constable Collins focused on gaining their trust and “adopting a citizen focused approach with shared ownership to reduce road casualties.” Constable Collins, through his partnership with the National Farmers Union, was able to change farmers’ attitudes toward road safety through an education campaign that let to a reduction of calls for service and fewer road collisions. The Lancashire Constabulary developed and disseminated a Farmers Flyer to provide guidance regarding field entrances and roadway debris; a Mud-Slider Flyer that raised awareness among motorcyclists about farm vehicles and mud debris; a Partnership Pamphlet that focused on road safety information; a Farm Vehicle guide about what constitutes a farm vehicle; and a media campaign that promoted the entire effort through safety awareness days, presentations about farm accidents, and the use of temporary signs on the roadways to alert drivers when farm vehicles are in the fields.
By 2007, the efforts of Operation Pasture were clear. Accidents involving farm vehicles were down significantly for the first time in three years, with no serious injuries and only one slight injury. Another contributing factor was an investment in road cleaning and, specifically, a road blaster that uses high-powered water to break up mud and clean the roads. Ultimately, the project reduced crashes and related injuries, saved police resources by responding to fewer collisions, while partnering with many of the key stakeholders to raise awareness about the problem. In offering advice to current and future problem-solvers Collins said, “If there is no evidence of problem orientation with a partnership, it is unlikely that the application of problem solving will succeed. A successful partnership requires an investment of time, resources and effort to deliver sustainable solutions. It is vitally important that you look ahead in your initial project planning to the outcome, or exit strategy, and give consideration as to how the benefits will be maintained or carried forward in the future.”
At the Goldstein Award ceremony held in Bellevue, Washington, it was noted that Constable Keith Collins will be retiring in June 2009 after a 30-year career with the Lancashire Constabulary. He not only ends on a high note with the Goldstein Award, but he has won the Home Office Tilley Award twice—the United Kingdom’s most prestigious problem-solving award. No one else can make the same claims.
To read more about Operation Pasture or the six other 2008 Goldstein Finalists, visit the POP Center web site: www.popcenter.org/library/awards/goldstein.cfm?browse=abstracts.