Village Vigilantes go for their speed guns.
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Introduction.
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A scheme that allows villagers to catch speeding motorists is spreading rapidly across Britain.  Hundreds of volunteers are being trained by police to trap drivers speeding on rural roads.  The 'village vigilante' scheme... which started as a local experiment in traffic policing... has quietly expanded across large swathes of the country.  [See blinkx Videos for more Information and News Stories on the subject of 'Active Citizenship'.]
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The rapid take-up has surprised even the police forces involved, who say it is fast becoming as popular as the Neighbourhood Watch scheme.  Under the initiative, motoristsí speeds are checked by amateurs trained by police specialists to use speed guns.  Drivers who are caught do not receive a fine... or points on their licence... but they are sent a police letter threatening them with prosecution if they repeat the offence.
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Nearly a third of the 43 police forces in England and Wales are currently training villagers to use speed guns and report drivers.
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The Community Speed Watch Project... as it is officially known, was first introduced by Avon and Somerset police in 2002 and has since been adopted by forces that include... Lincolnshire: Cambridgeshire: Merseyside: West Yorkshire: Cheshire: and Sussex.
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The demand among villagers to join the programme is attributed to the rapid growth in rural traffic.  The biggest problem is said to be drivers who, having been forced off major roads by congestion, are using rural roads as rat runs.  In many areas there is now a waiting list of villages to sign up for the scheme.  
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In Northamptonshire a Community Speed Watch pilot scheme was launched in 2003 with five villages and has been expanded to 29... with many more on the waiting list.  It is financed by a mixture of local authority funding and donations from local communities that want to participate.
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The Northamptonshire Casualty Reduction Trust Fund, which is operated by the county council and uses money from speed-awareness courses, [which drivers caught by conventional methods are forced to attend,] provides about £15,000 a year to the initiative.
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Parish councils that want to join the scheme must provide a list of at least 10 volunteers to local police.  The 10 are then trained to operate speed guns identical to those used by police and kitted out with official-looking high-visibility jackets.
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They are taught to work in pairs, with one volunteer operating the gun and another noting down the offending vehicleís details, including... its speed, registration number, make, model and colour.  This information is passed to police, who trace the driver and issue a warning letter.
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Opposing views.  As with many new initiatives... there is a marked difference in opinion between Safety campaigners and Motoring organisations.  As an example...
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Joanne Sharp... a mother of two young children who lives in Abthorpe... one of the latest villages in Northamptonshire to join the scheme... was quoted as saying "People persistently speed through the village and itís a concern... I had a bit of time on my hands so I volunteered to help.  Iím not political and I donít want to be seen as a vigilante... but I hope the schemeís a success.  When people see us they do slow down."
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On the other hand... there is some disquiet among Motoring organisations who say... "traffic management and road safety is too important a job to be left to unaccountable amateurs."
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The organisations see the mushrooming of a scheme that takes power away from police and puts it into the hands of members of the public as further evidence that overstretched constabularies are looking to offload their road-policing authority.
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Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, was quoted as saying... "The numbers of traffic police have declined in the past decade and this process has been accelerated by the reliance on speed cameras... a fixed camera or one held by a citizen does nothing to address the problems of drink, drug or dangerous driving.  Arming village vigilantes is not a long-term solution.  Rather than tooling up pensioners we should be working on a fundamental solution to the problems on our roads."  
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Comment.
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As we are supporting the concept of empowering road users... working in cooperation with the police... we would have to say... this is a move in the right direction.
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It is understandable that those who enjoy driving do not welcome the prospect of having speed guns pointed at them round every corner.  On the other hand... better to get a warning letter from the Police than a speeding fine and three points on your licence.

On the down side...
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  • The demographics of those taking part are probably quite narrow?
  • They are only concentrating on a single offence.
  • They can report everyone exceeding the limit... even if they are driving safely.
  • They are mainly focused on one type of road.
  • They need to coordinate their efforts at a particular time.
  • They are relying on expensive equipment... rather than utilizing their experience as drivers.
  • Information is probably??? not gathered at any central point.
  • Their follow up strategy is limited to... a warning letter.
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With a Road Supervisor scheme...
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  • The demographics would be very broad.
  • They could look out for every type of offence... or be asked to look out for some very specific offences.
  • With a limited number of reports... only the worst offenders would be reported.
  • They could keep an eye on every type of road... motorways: A roads: B roads: residential streets: etc. etc.
  • They would be operating 24/7... as they went about their everyday business.
  • This would utilize drivers' experience... so could concentrate on dangerous, aggressive, selfish, inconsiderate behaviour, etc. etc.
  • Information would be gathered at a central point.
  • Information gathered would form the basis of many different strategies to change behaviour, based on... Motivation: Deterrents: Targeted Education: Social Pressure: Enforcement and Punishment.
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We do not believe that empowering road users and being a driving enthusiast are incompatible.  Many driver take to the roads in high performance cars... enjoy their driving experience... and never put anyone at risk... because their driving is still safe, considerate and courteous.  While others cause danger and conflict every time they get behind the wheel.  
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The Bottom Line is... it is in everyone's interest to get these individuals under control... otherwise, the Authorities will use technology to get everyone under their control!
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