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Letter: Police road-blocks

Sir: Ian Burrell's article "Drivers face random searches at nationwide police road blocks" (12 August) implies that any of us might be stopped on our way to work next month and asked questions "we're under no obligation to answer". The roadside checks referred to are part of Operation Mermaid, a co-ordinated operation targeting commercial vehicles to check their roadworthiness and operational procedures.

Last year on our roads, 3,599 people were killed. Six people, including a two-year-old child, were killed at Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, in September 1993 by a truck with worn-out brakes. This is the type of tragedy Operation Mermaid aims to prevent.

Since Mermaid started in 1995 it has found over 6,000 tachograph offenders, stopped almost 2,500 overweight vehicles and taken 5,500 dangerous vehicles off the road. In the process, it has helped to combat theft, terrorism and other illegal activities.

As part of this nationwide operation, we have invited colleagues from other agencies to join us to tackle issues including fraudulent benefit claims, immigration matters and alcohol and tobacco smuggling. They too have had impressive results.


Assistant Commissioner

Metropolitan Police

Chairman, Traffic Committee, Association of Chief Police Officers

London NW9