The other day I was stuck behind a security van on the motorway (you know, the ones that carry money and other valuables from place to place) and, as you do, I started reading the stickers that were plastered over its rear end. This one caught my eye:
"POLICE Follow this Van". I'd seen it on several similar vans before and, once again, I got to wondering what it could mean.
Perhaps it is a warning to all persons with nefarious intent that police are following the van? But a quick glance over my shoulder didn't show me any officers of the law - though maybe they were driving a plain-clothes police car.
Then I hit on it. It is an instruction to passing Police vehicles that they should follow the van, I guess on the supposition that it has been stolen. But surely it's rather indiscriminate. Imagine that the police obeyed the order without question. Then every security van would gradually accumulate a small convoy of panda cars, and over time bank robbers and other criminals would be able to go about their business undisturbed, safe in the knowledge that the only people who could stop them were otherwise engaged in uselessly following legitimate cash couriers. It would be the reverse of what happened when this policeman accidentally turned on the "Follow Me" sign atop his car, and acquired a following of bemused motorists on his routine patrol.
So how are police to know when they should really follow the van? Here's my solution. It's obvious. Replace the useless sign on the back of the van with a Matrix display fitted to the top, like those on police cars, with the words "Police follow me". Then, inside, fit a button to activate the sign, with the label "Thieves, press here".
- I'm not the only one wondering about this. The question has been asked on yahoo answers and on UK Business forums - and there's no consensus on what the sign means. One forum poster suggested an alternative sign for lonely van drivers: "Please follow this van".
- Found it! A press release from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary stating that the sign means police should follow the van if they've got nothing better to do. But surely the Constabulary have more efficient means of communicating orders to their constables than sticking signs on the back of vans?