Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner insists speedwatch groups are feeding into formal enforcement action
Community speedwatch programmes are manned by volunteers who are given equipment to record when drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 per cent or more. The data is passed to police to write to those found to be speeding but it does not typically lead to formal action.
In the year to September 2022, more than 1,200 volunteers on 217 teams manned more than 1,300 sites across Thames Valley.
It led to 30,402 letters being sent to drivers with almost 95 per cent not caught again within a six-month period. Those who exceed three letters in a six-month period get a visit from a police officer.
Councillor Richard Webber (Lib Dem), a member of the Thames Valley Police and Crime Panel that holds Mr Barber to account, questioned whether enough was being done with the work.
“I see a potential disconnect between data collection and enforcement,” he said.
“At what point will that data actually be converted into some sort of enforcement, because if it isn’t, it simply leads to frustration and that really concerns me.”
Mr Barber detailed how improved systems were making better use of the data and saving volunteers time but added: “I agree, that is where frustration is. The whole purpose of this system is to fill that gap.
“Does it work perfectly? No, but we are still getting people joining the system all the time.
“Community speedwatch in itself is about education, not enforcement. It always has been and always will be because of the nature of the fact you are using volunteers and they are not using calibrated equipment.”
He added that moving on from a paper system with data manually entered at a police station at a later date had helped to dispel the notion that data “disappeared into a big black hole” and that measures such as informal visits from police were worthwhile.
“People might say ‘you are only knocking on the door’ but actually, that is pretty impactful, I think,” he said.
“It is usually a roads policing officer so they have the ability to deliver a pretty hard message because those officers will be the ones who perhaps scrape up someone off the road, they can give that first-hand experience of the dangers of some of this driving.”
Mr Barber continued: “There is one individual who seems to have great fun spotting where community speedwatch groups are and regularly races through an area, it almost encourages them.
“They have racked up several and are now being actively targeted by roads policing so there is absolutely that link through to enforcement and an escalation process.”
Mr Barber also said the data helps police to highlight speeding hotspots.
“If a particular area highlights a genuine issue then they are able to task the local neighbourhood team to go out and do some proper police enforcement by the roadside,” he said.
“That is helpful because it is done on the data, not on who shouts the loudest. There is a bit of a danger that some communities can be very concerned but the data may not justify that, it may well be perception rather than reality.”