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Police give public radar guns to nab speeding drivers
Mark Ludlow

Times of London
December 22, 2002

THE police are planning to train members of the public to use radar guns to catch speeding drivers.
Several forces have introduced pilot schemes and Avon and Somerset police have circulated a video promoting the idea. The schemes are part of “community speed watch groups” designed to help residents reduce the problems caused by speeding drivers. Residents work in pairs, using hand-held radars.

Although readings taken by the public cannot be used for prosecutions, details of drivers exceeding the speed limit are passed to the police, who issue a written warning. If repeat offenders are revealed, police monitor the road.

The idea, already used by Avon and Somerset police, is being considered by West Mercia police in Hereford. There have been expressions of interest from other forces across the country and from overseas.

Shane Hancock, a chief inspector in Hereford, said he had proposed a pilot scheme after seeing the video. He said the idea was popular with community and parish groups that believed there had been an increase in speeding.

“We hope to bring it to people’s attention that they have broken the limit,” he said. “Hopefully, next time they won’t speed in that location.”

Avon and Somerset police said the scheme had reduced road deaths. “It’s part of a holistic approach to reduce deaths and it involves the community with education and road enforcement,” said a spokesman.

But the idea has been criticised by motoring groups, which said it set citizens against each other and did not solve the problem of speeding.

Mark McArthur-Christie, road safety and transport spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said it would be better to educate motorists.

“It’s a bit vigilante. Is the next step to have patrols looking for burglars?” he said. “It’s not solving problems, it just gets noisy local residents off the police and council’s back.”

Hancock admitted the Hereford scheme might prove unpopular with some people.

The initiatives are the latest move in a drive against speeding. Last year more than 1m drivers were caught speeding by 4,500 cameras. Much of the revenue goes on new cameras.

Christopher Fox, chief constable of Northamptonshire, has angered some drivers by sending out Christmas cards showing Santa Claus on his sleigh being snapped for speeding.

A spokeswoman said the force thought the cards would strengthen the “safe driving” message.

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek card which a lot of people have found very amusing,” she said. “Only a small number haven’t.”

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