May 27th, 2009

Today I have been mostly…

Posted in The Job - Experience by 200

…doing PNC checks.

To the unitiated, PNC checks are checks we run on the Police National Computer. These usually take two forms, a check on a person where we try to find out if a person is known to police or has a criminal record & may be wanted, or checks on vehicles where we try to find out who owns it & if it might be stolen. i.e. a good way to get your quotas up without actually having to detect anything or find a baddie.

In the last couple of years we have had added functionality to vehicle checks. Now if we run your number plate, we can find out if it’s taxed, MOT’d & insured.

This has meant that the call for PNC checks has soared. Not only do officers do checks on vehicle sthey want to stop for whatever reason, they can also do them on any vehicle just to see if there might be a good reason to stop them in he first place, like a big fishing trip but without having to wamr up the maggots in your mouth.

The majority of vehicles officers do PNC checks never get stopped, because they come back as not stolen, fully insured, Taxed & MOT’d, so unless you’ve done something wrong, suspicious or just stupid, there’s not a great deal of point stopping you.

This is good for the officer because it doesn’t waste their time, it’s good for the driver because it doesn’t waste their time, but it’s bad for the congtrollers because it just means there is much more time to do lots more speculative PNC checks.

Not that I mind doing PNC checks. I get paid quite a lot to sit on my arse doing PNC checks (among other stuff), so I really don’t mind what I do for my cash as long as I feel it’s of some use to someone & not just done in order to assist a bean-counter somewhere (as is so much of our work).

If you are an officer who does PNC checks, I’ll let you into a secret or two & it will make our transaction so much simpler.

When you give the information for the check, you need to bear in mind that Iwhilst technology has advanced, we do not yet have a process of transferring information from your mouth to my computer via mind-meld & I still have to type it into the computer. I have to do this in a specific order & if you give the info in the wrong order I have to skip over the data entry field & fill in the other stuff and then go back to it, this takes extra time & isn’t good for my autistic tendencies as it makes my brain go all funny.

I can only type slower than my brain can process the info & much slower than you can say it. If you rattle off the very short list of info you need to provide, I will still be wondering what road name you gave by the time you’ve given the index number. If you give it in the correct order & with nano-seconds of rest between each part I might stand a fighting chance of filling in the bloody entry screen correctly first time.

If I say ‘You’re radio broke, can you give me the location/index/warrant number again” this means one of two things. Either your radio broke & I couldn’t pick up the information, or more likely, you spoke too fast or gave the info in the wrong order & the information has fallen out of one side of my brain in order to make room for the next bit you’ve given before I’ve had a chance to commit it to the computer. It just panders to my ego & sense of well-being to make out that it was an act of God that I didn’t get all the info rather than saying it went in one ear & out the other or ‘slow the fuck down’, thus absolving us both of blame. It also gives me time to turn to my partner to ask “what did he say?”

If you help me with these checks, we can get them done without the need for repetition which means you can do even more!

Happy days.

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  1. Mosh says:

    If a simple check to a linked system can tell from my number plate whether my car is taxed, then why the hell do I still have to remember to display the tax disc? I’ve always found this ludicrous. Sure, fine people for not paying the tax, but for not displaying the disc when the DVLC/police records happily show the tax has been paid?

    No, I’ve never been caught out by this. I just think it’s bloody stupid. And I’m not having a go at your good self! Just a general rant :)

    May 28th, 2009 at 00:31

  2. Noddy says:

    I hate to sound like a diversity monitor, but Autism is no joking matter.

    May 28th, 2009 at 01:42

  3. Iain Harper says:

    What order would you like the info giving in? I always thought it was my current location, surname, forename, DoB or for a vehicle, my current location and Index number.
    Is there anything else that would make it easier?

    May 28th, 2009 at 09:59

  4. Dr Dan H. says:

    OK, how’s about this for an idea: Take one bog-standard phone, with a little extra phone application in it which has the ability to do minimal encryption. All you need to do to use it is to put an encoding and decoding key into it at the start of every month or so, unique to that group or division. When you want to check a vehicle, you type the reg number into the device, which then encrypts the number and sends the result off as an SMS text message and returns a code to the user that is unique to that request but is NOT related to the reg number.

    The other end decodes this, runs the PNC check, and simply texts the officer back an answer: CLEAN or DIRTY and the request code.

    All the officer has to do is write down the code and the response in their notebook, and if the response is DIRTY then stop the vehicle and perform more checks. The advantage of doing things this way is that the remote systems will not respond unless the request is encrypted correctly, and at no time do they pass sensitive info in the clear. This should also work on fairly antiquated GSM kit and in low-signal areas so should be fairly robust, and should work on pretty much all police equipment now in service.

    May 28th, 2009 at 10:15

  5. Custard Skipper says:

    Noted, will try to ensure I get it right next time!
    Talking about fast talkers, don’t you just hate those people (often probies) who come up on air, talking at 100 MPH, breathless ‘Control from PC Smith’, It sounds like they are chasing Osama Bin Laden, the air goes quiet in anticipation, comms replies ‘Go ahead’ anticipating some major incident, ‘From PC Smith now on meal break’!!!

    May 28th, 2009 at 10:28

  6. Alpha Tango says:

    I was taught to use “nasch”. name, dob,sex,colour height followed by location, as thats how it is imputted into PNC. Perhaps you could confirm.
    With airwave, doesnt the collar/shoulder number of the officer requesting appear on your screen?

    May 28th, 2009 at 11:17

  7. pc fish thief says:

    Do you not have a playback function on your systems? Whenever I’ve dropped into our HQ to give my controller a coffee and cake he can quite happily chat to me while someone is passing a disposal over the airwave, as he’s safe in the knowledge that he can just touch his monitor and listen to whatever part of the message he likes again.

    Shoulder No. then location. Follow that with name and date & place of birth for people, or just the VRM for vehicles. The only thing typed into PNC is the shoulder no. and location followed by either the name and D.o.B, or the VRM. Place of birth or vehicle make/model can help clarify if there’s any discrepancy.

    May 28th, 2009 at 15:08

  8. 200 says:

    Oh dear, have I hit a few nerves?

    VEL info on PNC only came in in the last year & isn;t fully implemented yet, so until very recently we couldn’t tell whether a car was taxed

    what makes you think I was joking?

    warrant number, location, type of check (moving or stopped) index number – or surname/firstname, date of birth & sex (if not obvious from name) just done at a reasonable speed for someone typing it into a computer.

    Dr Dan,
    sounds pretty complicated for a transaction which would normally take 5 seconds or less from start to finish. Our radios are now encrypted.

    exactly, they call up with a voice which makes you instantly stop what you’re doing. Mind you, thinking about it, it does get our attention pretty smartish.

    sometimes it does but often people call from their car sets which don’t show who is transmitting & you’d be surprised how many officers don’t use their own radios for a variety of reasons not all relate to the fact that theirs are in for repair. Plus, if I look at the warrant number at the start of the transmission, because they have already started giving the information before I am at the correct start field, I have to skip those fields, input the index number/name & then go back to them having tried to remember their warrant number all through the check, I can’t always do this. If I recognise the officers I don’t need their number as I know it, but those I don’t can be a real pain if it comes in the wrong part of the transmission.

    PC FT,
    no, whilst all transmissions are recorded I don’t have access to instant playback.

    May 28th, 2009 at 16:11

  9. Hibbo says:

    I know this is not very scientific, but:
    In the 1980 film Blues Brothers, the yank cops had a data terminal in their car on which they could run vehicle checks, don’t you have anything like that in this country yet?

    PS. I don’t even know if that system was/is real or just in the filum, but I thought I’d mention it…

    May 28th, 2009 at 16:27

  10. 200 says:


    yes it has always amazed me that this technology has been available for decades in other countries but we’ve somehow managed to avoid it. There is new PDA technology coming in or due in which will make it possible to carry out these checks via mobile PDA technology. Whether officers will though when there is a helpful controller, who knows.

    May 28th, 2009 at 17:48

  11. rosco says:


    yes it has always amazed me that this technology has been available for decades in other countries but we’ve somehow managed to avoid it. There is new PDA technology coming in or due in which will make it possible to carry out these checks via mobile PDA technology. Whether officers will though when there is a helpful controller, who knows.”

    Rather hard though to use a PDA when you are single-crewed and driving/have the person in front of you – I somehow don’t think it is the total solution it is cracked up to be.

    May 28th, 2009 at 19:48

  12. Blueknight says:

    Loads of fun in the mid 1970s before there was PNC and before DVLA records were computerised.
    A person check, call the station on PR asking for a check. The station duty officer presses a white light up button on the side of the main set, which provides a telephone link with HQ.that can access the CRO.
    A vehicle check, the same procedure will tell you if the car is stolen. If you want owners details, come back to the station and write the details in the MOTAX book. Twice a week the details are telexed to the local MOTAX Office who reply with the owners details several days after that. If it is an urgent check, go to the MOTAX office yourself and search through the card system.
    This is what had to happen in 1966 when an urgent vehicle check was requiored after Harry Roberts killed the three Met Officers

    May 29th, 2009 at 00:49

  13. Alpha Tango says:

    No worries
    Am tempted to put in as a special, always helps if you know the correct proceedure and interesting to note the variations bewteen forces.
    You have probably guessed where I worked, with the introduction of airwave the car set had to be affiliated to your personal radio and call sign, a bit of a phaff at the start of a shift. However, control could track you personally by PR whilst out of the car and, likewise where the vehicle was and who was transmitting. I’m surprised some officers in your force let a colleague use a personal issue radio, seems akin to leaving your computer unlocked…. The inspector calls you in to ask why you had sent an email saying how much you love him !

    May 29th, 2009 at 09:16

  14. rafanon says:

    I’m a back seat copper (I watch the reality progs) and the road cars seem to have a device that tells them immediately if a car has a deficiency. Too expensive to put it in panda’s aswell I suppose?

    May 29th, 2009 at 16:27

  15. Civ_In_The_City says:

    I agree about the American in-car systems in the films. There was a good example in Terminator 2. So it`s just a simple ‘green screen’ system, and maybe isn`t encrypted to an acceptable standard for Paranoia U.K. Ltd. but it just works.

    Can any U.S. based readers confirm if this is Hollywood hokum?

    Our own attempts at ‘mobile data’ is particularly effective in one area: soaking up large budgets. How much are PDA`s at Argos lately anyway?

    Of course, the police get huge discounts on their PDA`s. Yeah, right!

    May 29th, 2009 at 18:35

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