An Anthology of New Writing
Stevyn Colgan is an author, artist, public speaker and oddly-spelled Cornishman. He has been a chef, a comics publisher, a monster maker and – for three decades - a police officer in London, during which time he met three Prime Ministers, two US Presidents and a Pope, was set on fire twice, told to f*ck off by a royal, was kissed by Princess Diana (not the same royal) and let Freddie Mercury wear his helmet. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of UK universities and is a regular speaker at UK and international events such as TED, HybridConf, 5x15, QEDcon, Nudgestock, the Ig Nobel Prizes, Latitude, the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe and many others. He has appeared on numerous podcasts and radio shows including Freakonomics, Do The Right Thing, Ex Libris, No Such Thing As A Fish, Little Atoms and Josie Lawrence’s Short Cuts. He is also one of the ‘Elves’ that research and write the multi award-winning BBC TV series QI and was part of the writing team that won the Rose D’Or for BBC Radio 4’s The Museum of Curiosity.
‘We need more cops like Stevyn Colgan but we also need more writers like him! Why Did the Policeman Cross the Road? is a model of smart storytelling, cunning insight, and pure inspiration.’
- Stephen J Dubner, Co-author Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics, Think Like A freak and When To Rob A Bank.
‘A great guy who you must meet - He took lateral and creative thinking and applied it to bigger social problems. I think there’s a huge opportunity for that kind of thing.’
– Rory Sutherland, President of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).
Can lollipops reduce anti-social behaviour? Or wizards halt street gambling? Do fake bus stops protect pensioners? Will organising a dog show stop young people killing each other?
Stevyn Colgan believes that the answer to all of those questions is 'Yes'. Packed with fascinating anecdotes and important questions, this astonishing book reveals the innovative and imaginative ways Colgan tried to prevent crime during his thirty years on the police force.
Colgan worked for twelve of those years as part of a unique team called The Problem Solving Unit. With no budget and laughable resources, they were given an extraordinary brief – to solve problems of crime and disorder that wouldn't respond to traditional policing. They were told they could try anything as long as it wasn't illegal, wasn't immoral, wouldn't bring the police into disrepute, and didn't cost very much.
With amusing, insightful and sometimes controversial approaches to problem solving, Colgan mixes personal anecdotes from his time on the force with real-world examples of how The Problem Solving Unit helped build communities and prevent recurring crime.
At its core, this book's message is simple: police should direct far more effort towards preventing crime before it happens rather than solving crime after it has happened.
‘Roll up! Try your luck! Find the lady and win big money!’
I followed the voice. I wasn’t familiar enough with the various accents of Eastern Europe to tell if the speaker was Polish, Romanian or from the Ukraine. He sounded like an affable Bond villain delivering an expository soliloquy before yanking the secret handle that sends 007 sliding down into the shark tank below.
‘All you have to do is find the lady! Try your luck sir! Madam!’
He was standing behind a makeshift table made from two stacked milk crates and a sheet of corrugated cardboard. On the desktop lay three playing cards face up: two low denomination red suit cards and the Queen of Spades. He deftly flipped the cards face down and shuffled them about. There was a big toothy nicotine grin that came with the voice.
‘Find the Queen‘, he explained to the crowd, ‘Simple, yes? There are only three cards. You have one in three chance!’
But then our eyes met and something sent alarm bells ringing inside him. I was trying to look like a punter but maybe my interest wasn’t sufficiently focussed on the cards. Or maybe he sensed that I was checking him out just a little too thoroughly. In an instant, the cards were whipped off the table and he was off, running pell mell into the crowd of Wembley Market.