July 23 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Thousands of speeding motorists were caught by Community Speedwatch volunteers across Suffolk last year.
A freedom of information request has revealed that 8,584 vehicles were clocked travelling faster than 35mph in 30mph zones between January and December.
Although not authorised to issue fines, the schemes have been hailed as a successful deterrent by Suffolk Constabulary.
The county’s first Community Speedwatch scheme was launched in Blythburgh in 2009.
Volunteers are trained to use speed guns by the police, who are passed on details of speeding vehicles and send warning letters to speeding drivers.
Police may use the information to investigate drivers if they are repeatedly caught breaking traffic laws.
David Kane, from Suffolk police’s community safety department, said: “By giving communities the opportunity to set up schemes, we are able to get valuable information without the deployment of speed cameras.
“If we receive data that shows there is an issue, we put the force of the constabulary behind it.
“Just the sight of someone in a yellow jacket at the side of the road can slow people down. They are doing something to educate drivers about speeding.
“We have had occasions when school buses have exceeded the limit. By writing a letter to the registered keeper - in this case the bus company - there is a realisation that this is not a good example to set.
“If it can curb speeding in villages - particularly where there are schools - it can only be a good thing.”
There are currently about 550 active and pending Community Speedwatch volunteers.
Schemes are funded by local parish councils, which buy the cameras, hi-vis jackets and signs.
One part time police staff member assists with operations, while the chief inspector of community safety co-ordinates the schemes and each safer neighbourhood team has a point of contact.
Specific training on the use of camera equipment, calibration and recording of information is provided when a scheme is set up.
Mr Kane said speeding motorists are initially sent official police warning letters but may be visited by police if caught on three or more occasions.
On a limited number of occasions, the speed of a vehicle caught by a Community Speedwatch scheme has been so high that the driver is visited by safer neighbourhood team members before a warning letter is issued.
Mr Kane added: “It’s not an enforcement. They will be given words of advice.
“The constabulary has not considered allowing fines to be issued in villages where there are Community Speedwatch scheme.
“The key things are prevention, education and getting evidence of a particular problem.
“We believe it is working. If it can help bring speeds down, it can only be of benefit.”
Volunteers are currently needed to help cut speeding in Rendlesham, where vehicles will be monitored in association with Eyke and Bromeswell parish councils following Speedwatch training last month.
Checks will initially be conducted for a few hours, one day a week for three weeks.
Rendlesham parish clerk Heather Heelis said: “Whether it will stop all speeding is doubtful, but we think it will help to slow some drivers down.
“People do react to seeing anyone in a bright yellow jacket standing on the side of the road.
“It has worked in other villages and we hope it can work in ours.”