Getting tough on speeders: huge increase in warning letters sent to Norfolk drivers who flout the speed limit
PUBLISHED: 06:30 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:40 28 March 2017
Residents are getting tough on speeding in their communities by rapidly increasing the number of warning letters they send to drivers who flout the law, statistics have revealed.
Ten years since the first Community Speed Watch scheme was piloted in Norfolk, people concerned about the disruption and danger caused by speeders have steadily built a small army of 734 volunteers across the county.
And the band of volunteers across 70 Speed Watch groups across Norfolk have shown they mean business, with 8,371 warning letters sent out in Norfolk in 2016 – up from 2,526 the year before.
Volunteers donot give residents the power to punish those who they catch speeding.
But stern warning letters are sent to those caught flouting the law – and once trained by police, volunteers in effect become the traffic cops of their communities, reaching the places officers can’t.
Roger Stocks, Speed Watch volunteer and chairman of Saxlingham Nethergate Parish Council, near Long Stratton, said: “If you ask people what the number one issue is in their community, they will say speeding through the villages in cars.
“Some people are reluctant to get involved with Speed Watch because we do get hand signals from some drivers and people are worried they are putting themselves on the line. However, we feel we’ve had some effect.”
If volunteers catch someone several times, speeders get a visit from a police officer.
But Laura Sykes, from Hopton-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, believes Speed Watch “most of the time isn’t worth it”.
She said: “Most of the hardcore drivers who go above the speed limit know you can’t make a difference.”
Mr Stocks said: “We’ve had people go past at 60mph and you can’t legislate for that.
“But you can see the cars brake as they are coming through. You’ll never stop speeding but if people feel there’s problem, this is something they can do about it.”
Pc Jim Squires, South Norfolk community engagement officer, said: “For me, it’s about empowering people.
“We can’t be there in every street but if you have got a community presence, then they are helping us to make their villages a safer place.” Pc Squires said that although fines are not handed out, the information volunteers collect is valuable data.
As a result police can target their roads policing more, for example by working with the school in Saxlingham Nethergate.
“Community Speed Watch is there to promote road safety, not enforce it,” Pc Squires explained.
“We’re trying to educate drivers, not prosecute them. For those who complain about speeding, the first I would say is think about Community Speed Watch.”
Pc Squires also believes: “It does reduce speeding.
“For someone who sees Community Speed Watch, they know they could be back another time. It is that continual thought process that you never know when they’re going to be there.”
Colin Sykes, chairman of Hopton-on-Sea Parish Council, added: “Community Speed Watch does work insofar as the idea is not to prosecute people, the idea is to make people keep to the speed limit. Most of the time if people see the Speed Watch, they will slow down and maybe think: ‘I shouldn’t have been going that quickly.’ It has then achieved its objective.”
Supt Dave Buckley, head of community safety at Norfolk Police, said: “Speeding is often a key concern in many communities and Community Speed Watch gives residents the power and opportunity to do something positive about it.
“Many of those taking part in schemes report that volunteers are having a significant effect, with their presence ensuring motorists consider the speed they are travelling at.
“In addition, all information obtained by volunteers is shared with police and helps us inform our patrol routes.”
Volunteers have also kept an eye on drivers in Suffolk, with dozens of schemes operating in the county and more than 25,000 warning letters sent between 2011 and 2014.