POLICING on the cheap? Or an excellent way to empower communities to make their own streets safer?
That is the heated debate over a proposal by the ruling Liberal Democrat group at Edinburgh City Council to allow volunteers to clock speeding motorists and pass details to the police. Offenders would not be charged but could be warned by letter.
The controversy is neatly illustrated by different comments from within the SNP group, with one councillor describing it as “half-baked” and another saying that any idea which could save lives should be fully explored.
There are obvious questions. How do you vet the volunteers who will carry this out? How do you prevent busybodies abusing their position? And is this change even required?
Clearly, safeguards would need to be introduced to ensure volunteers didn’t become vigilantes.
But where this scheme has operated in England there have been positive outcomes.
The reality is that the quality of life in many Lothian communities is blighted by speeding traffic. The noise, the pollution, the danger to children and pets. Even speed bumps are not always an effective deterrent.
And so, if there is a consistent problem, why not empower communities to tackle this themselves?
Police officers are simply too busy to be standing for hours on end on streets in the hope of snaring offenders. But residents, motivated by the desire to solve a problem, will do this.
The deterrent effect alone could help resolve the problem. But if not, residents will be armed with the evidence and able to ask for further action from councils or police.
As a society we are becoming helpless. Too often we look to others to solve our own problems. Remember last winter when so many able- bodied people complained that no-one had cleared the snow outside their own front door?
This scheme gives people the tools to act. If it is carefully managed and organised the outcomes can be positive for all.