Cambridge City Council’s East Area Committee will be meeting at 19.00 on Thursday the 3rd of September 2009. One of the things the city and county councillors for Romsey, Coleridge, Abbey and Petersfield will have on their agenda is holding the police to account for their progress in relation to the priorities councillors approved in May.
In May Cllr Howell proposed a priority of :
Tackling speeding on residential roads in East Area to include systematic evaluation of the problems and police enforcement action.
The police spoke strongly against this being set as a priority, and councillors were also divided; a vote was held and the priority approved by only one vote with councillors Herbert, Howell, Wright, and Benstead supporting the action against speeding. The councillors’ decision followed an astonishing report by the police on their crazy speedwatch scheme. This scheme involves local volunteers getting dressed up in fluorescent jackets and going on the roads and pointing speed cameras at cars; motorists “caught” get letters advising them to slow down. Following the report incredulous members of the public, including me, questioned why police officers were spending hours on end training members of the public to use speed guns, when if they had simply gone out to do the job themselves more time would have been spent tackling speeding in the area.
Last week a recklessly honest (perhaps whistleblowing?) email was sent out to Romsey residents via the police’s Ecops email system by PCSO John Ackerley, PCSO Mandy Turnell and PC Julian Haynes. They wrote:
Speed Gun results, well where to start. We had decided on 3 strategic placements along Mill Road, Brookes Road and Coldhams Lane respectfully and then after we had discovered some fresh batteries for the Speed gun were pretty much stopped in our tracks. We ventured out of the Station at about 15.30 and headed on to Mill Road where our timing for this operation was… lets say… questionable (as we were stuck in traffic). Never the less we ventured on and plotted up on Mill Road outside the old warehouse site. I set up the Speed gun and with Mandy poised with pen in hand recorded the first reading, 12mph at 120 meters away. After 5 minutes we moved onto Coldhams lane and had the same story there, Traffic. We have however learnt that the speed gun is a very effective tool as I was getting accurate readings from over 200 meters away… when there was a gap in the traffic long enough to get a reading. That outing was a learning curve for us and we will be aiming to use the Speed gun at more free-flow traffic times. Our next outing has not yet been confirmed but we will again let you know so you can bring us tea and biscuits, if you like.
These jokers are relatively highly paid professionals who are being paid out of public funds, I would expect them to be working more effectively. I don’t know exactly who is at fault, it may be the PCs and PCSOs are simply acting on the instructions of their sergeant. I hope that councillors, and members of the public, will hold the police to account for this debacle – which apparently they themselves don’t see anything wrong with as they wrote to local residents about it.
I want to see speeding enforcement targeted very specifically on areas where the roads are made unsafe by speeding drivers. I think enforcement ought be the last resort and signage and road design ought be used to as far as possible prevent the problem before it occurs.
The police have been given very specific details of the specific areas of the city, and times of the day, where councillors and local residents would like action on speeding to be taken. Specific targets for speeding enforcement which have been identified include:
- Northfield Avenue and parts of Kings Hedges Road (Approved as a priority many months after it was first raised.)
- Water Street, Chesterton.
- Coleridge Road and Birdwood Road
- Queen Edith’s Way
At the West Central Area committee on the 20th of August a presentation by the police explained some of the problems securing convictions for speeding, including:
- Poor (illegal) signage in the city, especially with relation to the 20mph zones.
- The fact cars have to be well inside a 20 or 30 zone when detected with a speed gun to ensure a reasonable chance of conviction. The geography of the city makes this difficult at many locations. A member of police staff reported to that meeting that readings have to be taken from at least 200m after the point the speed limit came into force; the statement by Cambridgeshire officers in the email I have reproduced above which states they were getting readings from over 200m away might result in them having to reconsider the relevant distance.
The police had told the West/Central area committee in May they were completely unable to enforce the city’s 20 mph zones, and following a prioritisation of the problem from councillors they acquired new equipment.
In my experience one of the worst times for speeding in the City Centre, including Mill Road is between 11pm and 1am on Friday and Saturday nights when taxis are rushing to make as much money as possible. While it appears the police are using PCSOs to deal with speeding in the city, I rarely see a PCSO after dark, and while I get inconsistent responses to my questions on this point I do not believe they work late at night.
During both the May, and August 2009 West Central Area committees councillors referred to County Council proposals to take transponders from taxis found speeding. Negiotions between the council and police on this question are being held under the auspices of Love Cambridge, ie. in an undemocratic, unaccountable manner, in secret.