Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The DIY Speed Trap Volunteers Replace Police Road Patrols

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The DIY Speed Trap Volunteers Replace Police Road Patrols

Article excerpt


A SCHEME that arms volunteers with speed guns is being extended into new areas after it cut the number of drivers breaking the limit.

Amateur patrols begin work today at Knockholt, near Sevenoaks, after earlier trials proved a success in Somerset, Cumbria and other parts of Kent.

The Government-backed initiative shifts responsibility for catching lawbreaking motorists from the police to the public.

Police chiefs claim it saves valuable time for officers and deters drivers from going too fast.

But some officers claim it encourages a vigilante approach and puts members of the public at risk of assault by irate motorists.

There are even fears that volunteers may set out to trap neighbours they have fallen out with.

The scheme is operated through parish councils, which buy speed guns for [pounds sterling]180.

Volunteers are trained in how to use the equipment and what to do if drivers turn nasty. Most volunteersare women and many are pensioners. They go out in pairs, wearing casual clothes with fluorescent yellow jackets.

Cars caught speeding have their number plates noted. Their owners receive warning letters stating where and when they broke the limit.

If an individual flouts the law regularly, traffic police may be sent to the scene to record the offence and issue a fine and penalty points.

Pc Richard Gisby, who runs the scheme in Kent, said: "We are short of manpower. We can't have someone sitting in a village for an hour and a half to catch one speeder. This is releasing our officers."

Scotland Yard is resisting calls for the scheme to be extended into London, despite evidence that it can cut average vehicle speeds. A Metropolitan Police source said: "It's almost like vigilantism. We prefer leaving things like that to the police."

Glen Smyth of the Metropolitan Police Federation claimed the initiative was a symptom of short-staffing in traffic police departments.

He said: "I think its abrogating the responsibility of the police. I don't expect it will be universally popular.

"Are we really going to put members of the public into the front line where trained officers should be? …

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