It’s not every day you see a head-turning police car with a roaring exhaust, rear spoiler and 345bhp – but that’s exactly what Devon and Cornwall Police have just taken delivery of.
As part of a bid to educate vulnerable young drivers on road safety, the force has acquired a Ford Focus RS which it is transforming into a completely unique police car.
The project, funded by the Vision Zero South West road safety partnership, builds on the hard work of Road Casualty Reduction Sergeant Owen Messenger and YouTube channel GCM (George’s Car Media).
The Focus RS, which was chosen for its legendary status among young drivers and modified car enthusiasts, will be used to engage with young people at targeted events across Devon and Cornwall.
However, it will also be used as the focus of a series of road safety videos released through the hugely popular GCM channel which has more than 765,000 followers on YouTube, Instagram and Tiktok – and attracts between 20 to 30 million views per month on average.
The videos will concentrate on road safety subjects that relate specifically to young drivers in Devon and Cornwall, who are one of six key vulnerable road user groups identified by Vision Zero South West as being over-represented in serious collisions.
The Focus RS isn’t the first sports car to be used as an engagement tool by Devon and Cornwall Police. Last year the police-liveried Lotus Evora turned heads all over the region, sparking countless road safety conversations with all manner of road users.
Sgt Owen Messenger, who has been featuring in videos on GCM for more than two years now, said: “The Lotus has been absolutely fantastic and has proved our concept that having a unique vehicle really works to engage with people.
“Over the past year I’ve had really insightful road safety conversations with thousands of people – both at live shows and online – purely because of the Lotus.
“It has an unmistakeable draw that just gets people talking and allows us to deliver our important messages to people who might not otherwise have wanted to speak to a police officer.”
However, Owen explained that the Evora now has to be returned to Lotus, which gave him the idea of acquiring the Focus RS.
Sgt Messenger said: “We use the car as a ‘hook’ to encourage young people to watch the videos – we then drip feed the Fatal Five and other road safety messages into these videos.
“This is the perfect car for engaging young people and those with an interest in the modified car scene – the Focus RS is unrivalled in its reputation.
“As well as using it at events and on social media to promote road safety messages, we are also working with the GCM channel to create a series of videos showing how you can safely modify a vehicle such as this.
“Lots of people want to modify their car or van but doing it without the right knowledge can be both dangerous and illegal. We want to show people how they can make these changes safely and legally and who they need to notify if they make certain modifications.
“This project helps the police reach an audience we might not otherwise be able to engage with. We are reaching out to a generation of people using modern social media techniques and an influencer in GCM, which helps us forge better relationships with the public and specifically young people.
Superintendent Adrian Leisk, strategic roads policing lead and chair of the Vision Zero South West enforcement sub-group, said: “Young drivers can be hard for police to engage with for a number of reasons, so having a vehicle like this that appeals to them is going to really help.
“This is all about road safety. At the moment too many people are being killed or seriously injured on our roads and to make a difference we need to take brave and innovative steps – particularly to hit our Vision Zero South West goal of halving all serious collisions in Devon and Cornwall by 2030.
“Sadly, we know young people are over-represented in these collisions. Every young life lost or dramatically changed due to a collision is an absolute tragedy and this is just one of the many ways we are working hard to prevent such crashes.
“We have already been contacted by several groups who want us to bring the Focus to their school or event to speak to about road safety. I’m really hopeful that this project will save lives in the years to come.”
Councillor Stuart Hughes, vice-chair of Vision Zero South West and Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said:
“Owen and George have been doing some fantastic work through the GCM channel and I’m delighted we’ve been able to help this continue. They have access to a unique demographic of people who we desperately need to reach.
“The Vision Zero partnership is passionate about preventing serious and fatal collisions across Devon and Cornwall and I’m really excited to see the impact this project is going to have.”