East Area Councillors from all parties attended a briefing meeting today about the Speedwatch scheme. There is one 'kit' available for the Cambridge Area (potentially a second next year) It appears Councillors from all three main parties (myself included) have requested that East Area should have first dibs on the new 'Speedwatch' equipment, and this has been agreed by the local community safety partnership. The police representatives outlined how the scheme works:
Prior to use, there will be a training session for volunteers.
Volunteers are responsible for using the equipment (as pictured above), and determine themselves when to monitor road speeds.
Cars passing the speedwatch monitor at more than a preset speed (36mph is the standard for 30mph roads) will cause the monitor to flash up the speed of the car. In this case the volunteer writes down the speed, number plate, car make, and colour.
The information is passed to the police. If the number plate is consistent with the car details, the police write to the registered owner pointing out that they have been seen speeding and asking them not to do it again, but obviously no legal action can be taken.
It was claimed that if the same car was noted on several occasions, then the police could potentially undertake more formal speed checks at the relevant time of day, and the County Council will also use information collected to build up a picture of speeding trouble spots, but in terms of action, that is about it.
I support using this initiative, and would like to see it tried out in Coleridge speeding trouble spots, like Coleridge Road and Birdwood Road. But I'm not about to support Labour's calls for huge numbers of additional cameras to be purchased before we know if the pilot is a success, not least because I have some significant concerns about the scheme.
Firstly, lack of cameras doesn't look like the problem - you need to find volunteers prepared to operate them, and this will take a significant time commitment if it is really going to change motorist behaviour. It is likely that there will be plenty of time to share the equipment, although it will need storing somewhere.
Then there is the quality of data obtained - I don't think the use will be controlled enough to give an objective view of the speeding problem in various areas - we really should be undertaking proper controlled reviews to determine trouble spots, and the Council can already do.
But perhaps my biggest reservation can be summed up by the reaction I've had from more than one person on the doorstep to the scheme - we shouldn't have residents policing and snooping on their neighbours, its the police's job and we pay a lot of tax towards them. The police can stop motorists immediately the offence takes place, and have the authority to issue tickets, or exercise professional judgement and discretion - it really should be down to them to police these problems.
Far too often with traffic problems like those on Hills Road bridge, cyclists without lights and antisocial speeding on residential roads, the police show little or no interest in concerted action over a period of time, just undertaking occasional operations mostly for publicity purposes. For this reason I will doubtless try to add anti-social speeding again to the list of police priorities at the next East Area committee.
That said, Speedwatch could play a role in stopping what is a real problem. The police have volunteered to talk about the Speedwatch scheme prior to the next East Area meeting on 15th January, and I would encourage any local residents who may be interested in setting up a group to come along. Abbey, Coleridge and Romsey ward Councillor's all seemed to want access to the equipment in their area, and the meeting is likely to discuss how it will be used, which might get heated. Cllr Harrison if you are reading - chill, relax, I'm sure we can all play nicely...