Signs of the Times

In what has turned out to be a surprisingly successful move, Kent Constabulary has reported a twenty percent reduction in serious crime as a result of their latest campaign.

"For some time now police forces have been experimenting with different promotional approaches to dealing with crime," said Chief Inspector Dick Barton. "For instance, three years ago we launched our 'Softly Softly' campaign in which we attempted to gently persuade people not to commit felonies, using posters with catchy slogans such as 'Hey sonny, you don't really want to nick that car, do you?', 'Come on now lad, turn it in' and 'Now, now - don't be a murderer'. These met with a lukewarm reaction.

"Likewise, our recent rebranding exercise was equally disappointing. No one responded positively when we officially started calling ourselves 'Old Bill', and our brief experiments with 'The Fuzz', 'Da Force' and 'Kent Constabulary Five-0' were judged to have undermined our authority."

Nonetheless, Chief Inspector Barton believes that their latest scheme has reversed these failures. The idea came about when police bosses noticed how homeowners frequently enjoyed positive results with tersely worded 'No Parking' signs erected outside their homes. Despite having no legal force and often being hideously misspelt, such notices have been remarkably effective. Could the same approach be used to deter criminal activity?

Over the last few months Kent Constabulary Five-0 has been erecting signs in various locations with stark messages like 'No Mugging' and 'No Breaking and Entering'.

"It's all down to having a very clear, authoritative and unequivocal message," explained Chief Inspector Barton. "Combined with a serious-looking font, it sends out a powerful signal."

Curiously, the force has found that the more specific the instruction, the more readily it is observed. So, for example, a sign saying 'No Mugging' will certainly have an impact, but nowhere near as much as one saying 'No Mugging Between 6PM and 6AM'.

"It works a treat," said the Chief Inspector. "The only downside is that it does rather give the impression that it's a bit of a free for all during the hours of daylight."

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