Monday, November 20The Voice of London

From The Other Side: What’s it really like to be on Traffic Cops?

How quickly life can change…

Reporter: Ryan Elliott | Sub-Editor: Alex Clement

Credit: Cloudinary
Credit: Cloudinary

Since it first aired on The BBC back in 2003, Traffic Cops UK has gone on to assert itself as a popular late night British turn-to show. Albeit, we don’t lose sleep in the run-up to the release of a new series, but if there’s nothing else on, it’s always there. Now into its 14th series – the show’s focus is simple, yet satisfying to watch. Camera crews follow police in their pursuit of criminals around The United Kingdom, leading to some outrageous footage. We’ve seen drink drivers, hit-and-runners and more than a fair share of other law breakers over the years, but the question stands – what is it actually like to be the antagonist in this situation? We caught up with a young man (who asked to remain anonymous to save face and avoid further issues) that had faced conviction following his arrest on an episode of Traffic Cops, and found out just how life-changing these shows can be.

“Firstly, you have no idea it’s coming of course,” The 23-year-old said. “I’d picked up a grand’s worth of weed from Leeds to sell and was on my way back to Harrogate late one night. We were always careful, but we never expected anything to actually happen. I was 19 at the time, and had it all stashed under the bonnet of my car in small bags.

“I’d realised after a while that I was being followed. At this point I didn’t know it was the police, but knew somebody was following me home. Me and my mate thought it would be best to drive somewhere where we could stop and see what was going on, and our local ASDA had a huge underground car park, so we headed there, which ended up being a huge mistake obviously.”

What happened next changed the now-former-drug dealer’s life forever. As he explained, the presence of these events – particularly with a camera crew alongside – can be overwhelming. He told us:

“The car that had been following us pulled up, and before we knew it, at least six other police cars and a van came flying in and boxed us into our parking space. I remember my stomach just dropping, and when they asked me to get out of the car – that’s when I noticed the cameras. There must’ve been about 20 people with all the police and people filming, and I knew we were in a whole world of s**t.

Credit: BBC
Credit: BBC

“They didn’t actually find anything at first, and you’d think that’d fill you with hope, but the whole area stank of weed when they popped the bonnet. It was so obvious. They brought the dogs in [to sniff out any illegal substances], and within seconds they were starting to find baggies. I knew I was f**ked, but had no idea what all the cameras were for. They didn’t tell us at the time it was for Traffic Cops, and since I was charged I had no say in whether my face was blurred which was awful.”

The anonymous man was charged with possession with intent to supply, and though he escaped jail time, he was given a suspended sentence and had close-to-no privacy from that moment onwards – with police making close-to-daily check-ups. He reluctantly decided not to tell his boss, as he was working part-time for a large retailer at the time and did not want to lose his now-only method of income – a decision that would come back to bite him.

“I obviously found out later on what was happening,” He said. “My mate wasn’t charged and was actually allowed his face blurred, but I knew eventually I would be on television. Nearly a year later, I came downstairs for breakfast and my dad said, ‘Today’s the day’, and slammed the local paper on the table. The episode of Traffic Cops that had just aired was in there, and my face and name was in it!

“I took the gamble and wondered how many people actually still read the paper, but by the time I got into work, someone had left a copy of it on my boss’ desk. He looked at me and said, ‘I think this is a subtle way of saying you’re a drug dealer!’ Thankfully I somehow kept my job after plenty of begging and grovelling, and I’m now there full time.

“Obviously if I could go back I would change things. It would be tricky for me now to get another decent job with a criminal record, and for a good few months I couldn’t go anywhere without the police stopping me to check my car or see what I was up to.”

As mentioned, the now-23-year-old managed to keep his job, and has put a life of crime behind him. In spite of this, the effects of the show still linger – with him admitting his parents wanted to sell their house at one stage, and a lot of family would not actually talk to him whatsoever. With all that said, the message is clear – don’t sell drugs, kids!

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