When I was growing up, The Bill was huge here in Australia. We watched it as a family and we all loved the show – and thus a fascination with all things British policing was born.
Over the years there have been many great documentary shows on the subject – everything from Traffic Cops to Police Interceptors to Sky Cops to 24 Hours In Police Custody – the more of these shows you watch, the more you see how shows like The Bill got things pretty right. You could easily plop the cast of The Bill down into a real UK police station and you would not be able to tell the difference.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon Catching A Killer on the ABC here in Australia – you can still view it on iView (until September 16) and I highly recommend it. There are only two episodes of the show. For those not in Australia, you can currently catch these docos on youtube here and here.
To me the most fascinating part of the documentary is how the police use the ANPR system to track the movement of vehicles in the UK. In both episodes it is a crucial part of the investigation, especially in the second episode. They were able to take 5300 vehicles on the roads at the time and narrow it down to one vehicle.
Did you know that the UK has over 8500 cameras capturing the movements of vehicles across the country? These records are stored for up to two years in the National ANPR Data Center, which can be accessed, analysed and used as evidence as part of investigations by UK law enforcement agencies.
The police can type in a numberplate and see every occasion that particular vehicle has been seen on camera, and they can track where a vehicle goes – the screenshot above shows a vehicle which the owner claimed was at home hitting various cameras across the UK where the green circles are..
They have a pretty decent CCTV network over in the UK as well, and watching them piece together the movements of cars and people of interest is a sight to be seen.
All this to say, if you have a spare minute, watch these documentaries. Especially those of you who enjoyed Line of Duty, this is like the real thing but without all the police corruption and major plot twists!