The Road Crime Unit (or RCU) was established in May 2007 under the leadership of DS Jim Anderton who had been put in post six months earlier to instigate the formation of the Unit. It had been identified that such a unit was needed to deal not only with cross border criminals but also to provide assistance to the local divisions under the National Intelligence Model, tackling specific individuals using motor-vehicles in the use of crime, instead of just patrolling areas.
After interviews had taken place, the following Officers were selected and remain on the team some two and a half years later.
DS Jim Anderton – previously CID at Exmouth.
MPC Giles Bedson – previously ANPR Team based at Launceston.
MPC Michael Brown – previously Armed Response/Traffic at Exeter.
DC Chris Davidson – previously CID at Plymouth.
DC Roger Hocking – previously CID at Plymouth.
MPC Mark Moore – previously Armed Response/Traffic at Exeter (Crewed with Mike).
DC Ian 'Taff' Jones – previously CID at Crediton.
Jim, Chris and Roger had to pass an advanced driving and Tactical Pursuit and Containment (TPAC) Course prior to the Unit being operational. There is no maximum tenure on the Unit and vacancies will only occur when the Officers move on. As all of them thoroughly enjoy it and believe they have the best job within the force, it is unlikely any will move in the foreseeable future.
The Unit is equipped with four vehicles. Two marked BMW 330 Tourers equipped with Tracker and ANPR and two unmarked Ford Focus STs, one of which is equipped with an HD Recording system. The callsigns all begin with OSCAR and each crew has its own static call sign. Jim is OSCAR 41, Chris and Mike OSCAR 42, Giles and Roger OSCAR 43 and Mark and Taff OSCAR 44. They are based at a secret location between Exeter and Plymouth.
The Unit does not go on routine patrols and relies on taskings from local divisions and crime departments for their work. On any days where no taskings are in place (which is rare), they will often patrol the M5 Motorway on the borders with Avon and Somerset Police. They have worked on operations with North Wales Police, Avon and Somerset Police, SOCIT (serious and Organised Crime Investigation team), SOCA (Serious and Organised Crime Agency), Home Office Immigration, as well as many other departments within the Force.
They cover the largest Force area in England and have worked all over Devon and Cornwall from Penzance, Camborne, Newquay, Plymouth, Totnes, Torquay, Exeter, Barnstaple and Cullompton to name a few. It is a well known fact that it takes less time to drive from Exeter to London than it does from Exeter to Penzance (although this may now be in doubt following an extension to the A30!)
From its formation to March 2009, the Unit has seized £3.22 million pounds of controlled drugs, counterfeit goods, tobacco and cash. They have also arrested 256 people and seized 219 cars. There are no figures available for the number of people reported for traffic offences but this will now be in excess of one thousand tickets or summons, all helping to deny the criminal the use of the road.
One of the Unit's biggest successes came in January 2008 when Officers seized amphetamine worth nearly £700,000 after a raid in a car park of a Garden Centre outside Ivybridge, Devon. They swooped on two males as they talked near their cars. In one vehicle, Officers found 50 one-kilo bags of amphetamine sulphate powder. A box containing eight bags weighing a total of 7.4kg was discovered in the other.
Police later searched a home belonging to one of the arrested men in Torpoint, and found a further 10 bags of amphetamine. Cannabis worth £21,000 was also seized. Both males were imprisoned for over three years and all the Officers on the Road Crime Unit received Commanders Commendations.
Most RCU tasking and incidents involve some other police involvement either at the time or in the past but sometimes, just good policing skills and luck can get results.
One such incident was the stop on the uninsured Porsche 911 on the M5 by Giles and Roger in episode 11. What was thought to be a routine traffic stop resulted in a cocaine seizure in excess of £500,000.
The Unit's success and dynamic approach to policing is now being looked at by other forces who are likely to be forming something similar to the Road Crime Unit in the future.
The Road Wars team first heard about the success of the RCU early in 2008 after reading about them in a police magazine. After initial contact, all the team agreed to be filmed. It took a bit of time for both to get used to each other, the lads getting used to the camera and Rawcut realising we worked totally differently to the Proactive Unit and a lot of our stops were less confrontational, usually due to the number of police involved on the stops. However, as time went by, we started to gel together and worked really well. The rest, as they say, is history.
Will they be back for Series 8…..I hope so.
© Chris Davidson October 2009
The Web team would like to thank Chris for contributing this article and the accompanying photos.