Volunteer speed patrols set their sights on drivers

Volunteers would be trained to clock speeding motorists
Volunteers would be trained to clock speeding motorists
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TEAMS of “vigilante” speed gun patrols would patrol Edinburgh streets under new plans revealed today.

Volunteers in high-vis jackets would be able to clock speeding motorists and pass the details to police under the scheme, which would be the first of its kind in a Scottish city.

While fines could not be imposed, police would be able to use the information to issue warning letters to the drivers.

The volunteers would be expected to identify safety problems, such as hazardous parking near schools and misuse of cycle lanes, under the plans which are contained in the manifesto of the ruling Liberal Democrat group for the council elections.

The move is sure to be controversial and attract claims of “policing on the cheap”, but senior Lib Dem and council transport convener Gordon Mackenzie said the scheme, to be known as “Streets Ahead Plus”, would be based on similar ones run in England.

While the Lib Dems are expected to suffer heavy losses at the polls, the party may still end up forming part of the next ruling coalition, meaning the policy has a good chance of being introduced.

Cllr Mackenzie said: “We would provide training on how to use speed guns, speed cameras or whatever, and they would go to areas where there were concerns about speeding, or to support 20mph limits. Since they would be in high-vis jackets, drivers will probably slow down anyway.

“The information would be passed to the police for a follow-up. That could simply be a letter to the driver saying they had been clocked breaking the speed limit or pointing out there was a new 20mph limit and perhaps warning them that such behaviour could lead to a fine and points on their licence.”

He said police could also use the information to identify speeding hotspots and deploy traffic police to the areas.

He said: “Obviously, it’s very much dependent on whether there are willing local volunteers, but the feedback from people in South Edinburgh since 20mph limits have been introduced is they are highly motivated to see these enforced. This is recognising we have a limited budget and it is a way of people making roads safer in their local community.”

He denied the scheme was aimed at replacing police or that it was a vigilante-style approach, saying: “We would see it as the same as anyone volunteering to do something for the public good, helping out with a charity or picking up litter.”

He said a similar scheme had been trialled in north east Fife and police there had hailed it as a success, but there were warnings today that the volunteer approach risked “verging on vigilantism”.

Neil Greig, head of policy for the Institute of Advanced Motorists in Scotland, said: “Providing information or leads for the police is OK, but you have to take care that people are not pursuing their own agendas and certain people don’t suddenly get a lot of tickets. The volunteers would have to be properly trained and understand the limits of their role.”

Roads focus

THE Lib Dem manifesto also promises to tackle pothole problems and spend more on cycling.

The manifesto, to be published next week, will pledge to ensure all potholes are fixed permanently first time.

The party will also commit to increasing the percentage of relevant transport budgets spent on cycling by one per cent per year for five years.

Other promises, should it be returned to power, include rolling out new 20mph limits for areas where there is local support, and maintaining Lothian Buses in public ownership.

Scheme is just the ticket as 15,000 caught

SPEED watch volunteers in one English county caught drivers speeding more than 15,000 times last year.

Wiltshire has 60 community speed watch groups with a total of 360 volunteers, who made more than 1700 visits to speeding hotspots during 2011.

As a result, the information was passed to the police which issued 11,700 letters last year.

The scheme was launched in 2009 and is said to have proven popular.