Coming to a billboard near you…

While jogging through the outskirts of Oxford today, I noticed this striking hoarding:

Note the CCTV camera watching over its children like a vigilant father.

It turns out that this poster is part of a major advertising campaign launched by the police to encourage us to give informing a go. But its placement on an access road used only by those dropping off their rubbish at the local recycling depot seemed odd – local bombers presumably have higher priority targets. This is not to suggest that the police's marketers are wasting taxpayer money – an isolated Mormon chuch sat nearby, and I imagine they were asked to target religious communities on the fringes of society. Nonetheless, a scan through the other posters they have produced suggests a more appropriate candidate:

Chemicals in bin
Infrequent bin collection: keeping you safe

With a billboard like that around, no trip to drop off our rubbish would be free from our more paranoid neighbours peering into our binbags, mobile phone in hand. The marketers know their market – these are the only people who would require assurance that an 'Anti-Terrorist Hotline' is confidential, assuming as they do that all our other calls are monitored by terrorist phone-tappers. I can only imagine some of the panicked calls the hotline staff will get; the depressing thing is that the police will presumably be expected to follow up even the most ridiculous accusations, lest they be blamed for missing the one genuine terrorist who gets reported.

We can certainly hope that those who witness something obviously suspicious will tell the police – if they do not, it will surely take more than a glitzy advertising campaign to convince them otherwise. But before we start snooping on one another's wheelie bins, a dose of perspective is needed, for which one can look to the series of counter-advertisements produced by the group Smile at the Spies:

Chemicals in bin
Copyleft Smile at the Spies

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