By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
New South Wales police officers will be randomly “visiting” the homes of traffic offenders as part of a strategy which police commissioner Mick Fuller claims is designed to deter them from reoffending.
Knock knock, it’s police
Mr Fuller has directed officers to conduct “random” attendances at the homes of traffic offenders such as disqualified drivers and those with poor traffic records.
The commissioner says it’s all part of Operation Merret, a program established in response to the recent rise in the state’s road toll – a figure which had been in declining for decades until two years ago.
The operation has also led to an increase in unmarked highway patrol cars, more roadside alcohol and drug tests, and the targeting of illegal mobile phone use and speeding.
Government crackdown on traffic offences
The NSW government is also implementing a range of measures which it says are designed to reduce fatalities, including lower speed limits and the requirement that all drivers found guilty of middle range drink driving have ‘interlock devices’ fitted to their vehicles after the expiry of their disqualification periods, requiring them to blow a blood alcohol reading of zero before the ignition can be activated.
The government is also working with a group of legal and medical experts to consider options for cracking down on drivers affected by medicinal drugs prescribed by doctors, and has added cocaine to the list of substances detected during road-side tests.
The measures are ostensibly part of a plan to achieve a 30 percent reduction in road fatalities by 2020.
Targeting traffic offenders at home
But while police claim the plan to visit traffic offenders at home is all about road safety, many fail to see how it can possibly achieve this objective – identifying the measure as yet another unwarranted move towards state control at the expense of personal privacy and freedom from state intrusion without sufficient reason.
The new plan means that all officers – including those with nothing to do with traffic enforcement – will be given an excuse to knock on a person’s door and may use this as a backdoor way to harass people with impunity and even, through the interaction, seek to obtain information to formulate a ‘reasonable suspicion’ or obtain consent for an otherwise illegal warrantless search.
When asked whether the new directives are likely to be effective in deterring traffic offences, the police commissioner stated:
“Will they work on the area of traffic enforcement? I don’t know the answer to that.”
The admission is yet another indication the NSW Police Force is getting used to brazenly impinging on the personal liberties of individuals with impunity.