July 31 2014 Latest news:
Peter Walsh, Crime correspondent
Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Police are hoping thousands of motorists might be willing to send them videos of bad or dangerous drivers in an unusual move to help keep our roads safer.
Increasing numbers of drivers are buying dashcams – cameras placed on dashboards – to help protect them from being wrongly blamed for crashes so they can prove they were not at fault in the event of a collision which could help in support of an insurance claim.
The cameras are available for as little as £70 and police forces across the country are keen to tap into a network that would give them tens of thousands of extra eyes on the road.
Paul Marshall, Suffolk’s deputy chief constable, who is the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) lead on an initiative to digitise the collection, storage, and management of criminal evidence, said: “Increasing use is being made by the public of digital cameras to record evidence of offences which can be used by the police to support prosecutions.
“This is welcomed by ACPO as quite often the only evidence available is an eye witness account which is disputed by the alleged offender.”
Norfolk Constabulary, which has a joint roads policing unit with Suffolk, said it would not comment locally on the scheme although Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s police and crime commissioner, said: “In the light it might well help reduce road deaths then its something we’ve got to look at, but until I know exactly what is involved, I wouldn’t want to comment further.”
Tony Sutton, 35, has captured a number of crashes, near misses and other motoring mishaps in Norfolk on his dashcam which he has been using for the past three years. Mr Sutton, an IT worker who lives near Norwich, said he fully supported the call for people to use their dashcams to help bring dangerous or careless drivers to the police’s attention.
He said: “I think it’s a great way to do this as we know the police cannot be everywhere so they rely on the public to report these sorts of things.
“They currently accept anonymous tip-offs, so I can’t see why this would be any different and having a video is a big bonus since video/pictures tell you a full story.”
Mr Sutton said he was in 100pc agreement with the public using their dashcams to help police as long as the devices were set up correctly.
He said: “Date and time stamp is a bonus. Even better if it displays the GPS speed readings based on your car’s speed, so they can compare with other vehicles who were speeding past you or other uses.”
Mr Sutton said police had only acted on one of his videos when the driver of a car who moved across in front of him as he approached the Thickthorn roundabout near Norwich was given a formal warning.
Norwich driving instructor Paul Harmes, who last year captured footage of a G4S van which had been driving through the city with bags of money visible through an open hatch, is another motorist in favour of police receiving dashcam footage from the public.
He said: “It’s good in one way that police want to do this kind of thing but on the flip side it’s sad police can’t do it themselves.
“There are too many deaths, so any way people can report dangerous driving and help bring that down has to be a benefit.”
Dashcams are currently used by thousands of drivers in the UK with some of the devices on the market just a couple of inches long. They can be powered by batteries or car lighter sockets.
Some insurers have offered discounts of up to 15pc to drivers who have dashcams fitted with those that do believing the devices encourage safer driving as well as establishing fault in accidents and protecting against scams, particularly when fraudsters deliberately brake in order to cause an innocent motorist to collide with their car, or invent extra passengers who were supposedly injured in a crash.