Top police chief- keep speed cameras

DON'T switch off speed cameras - that is the message from one of the country's most senior police officers to councils in East Anglia.Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils have both been considering whether they will have to reduce or get rid of speed cameras in the face of savage government cuts.

DON'T switch off speed cameras - that is the message from one of the country's most senior police officers to councils in East Anglia.

Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils have both been considering whether they will have to reduce or get rid of speed cameras in the face of savage government cuts.

Now the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has sent a letter to all local authorities insisting that cameras are “an effective means of reducing road casualties” and should not be turned off.

Suffolk has already decided that in spite of government cutbacks, it will keep all its fixed speed cameras operating until at least the end of next year, but a question mark still hangs over the fate of cameras in Norfolk.

The government announced in July that road safety revenue grants are to be slashed and the cuts have already led to cameras run by Oxfordshire and Wiltshire County Councils being turned off completely.

In a letter seen by the EDP, ACPO's roads policing specialist, Gwent chief constable Mick Giannasi, said speed cameras have been “a cornerstone of the success which has been achieved in casualty reduction terms over the past 10 years”.

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He added: “I think we would all accept that in the current financial and political climate we will have to do things differently in terms of road safety.

“However, we have a collective duty to ensure that in the process, we do not 'throw the baby out with the bath water' and that the reductions in road casualties which we have achieved are not reversed.

“I am not suggesting that there are not alternatives to enforcement cameras, but they have proven to be highly effective and if we remove them without alternative measures being put in place, casualties will almost inevitably rise.”

He also said that in Oxfordshire, where cameras were turned off last month, two cameras have been left on to record speeds and one recorded an increase in offending of 88pc.

Norfolk's speed camera bosses have already said downsizing is inevitable but a review into the fate of cameras is still going on.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman confirmed ACPO's letter and briefing document had been received, and passed on to the casualty reduction group.

He said: “Our review is continuing and we are in the process of preparing papers for members to discuss options going forward regarding the safety camera partnership and other safety camera issues which will allow them to make an informed decision.”

He said that the outcomes of the review will be discussed at a meeting, which will be open to the public, later in the autumn.

In Suffolk, the letter has been received but the decision had already been made that speed camera provision will remain as it is now until at least the end of year.

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads, transport and planning, said: “It is our intention to keep the present level of service for this year and next. We have sufficient resources to enable this to be done before it needs to be reviewed.

“Because of our belief that speeding plays a part in a significant numbers of serious injury and fatal collisions, we feel this is the best way forward.”

He added: “In a couple of years time it will be interesting to see what the effect of turning off speed cameras has been in areas where that has been done.”

The police perspective on the future of speed cameras - extracts from ACPO's briefing to councils.

“There is no 'war' on the motorist. What there is, is a concerted campaign, based on a variety of tactics, one of which is camera enforcement, to prevent irresponsible people from causing death and injury on the roads. If that could be described as a war then so be it...but it is undoubtedly a just one.”

“It is important to remember that cameras are only put there in the first place because there is a high risk of a collision occurring at the locations where they are sited. It is also important to remember that marginal increases in speed can be the difference between life and death.”

“If those who are currently deterred by the prospect of enforcement get a sense that the personal consequences are reduced, then speeds will inevitably increase and the risk of more people being killed or injured on our roads will increase accordingly.”

“Properly used and appropriately sited, safety cameras do save lives.”

“There are alternatives to fixed site cameras, and there are alternatives to enforcement. Indeed the national roads safety strategy is based on a holistic approach known as the three E's - education, engineering and enforcement. However all of those options rely, to a greater or lesser extent, on the continued existence of road safety camera partnerships and the administrative 'back office' systems which underpin them.”

“The ultimate consequence of the demise of the safety camera programme and the other programmes that rely on it for administrative support would almost inevitably be a reversal of the downward trend in casualty figures. Inappropriate use of speed is a factor in almost a fifth of fatal and serious road accidents and is camera enforcement is not sustained in some form, average speeds at high risk sites will almost inevitably rise.”

“It is vital that local authorities give careful consideration to the consequences of any action which threatens the longer term sustainability of the safety camera enforcement system. If it is necessary to curtail camera enforcement operations, we would urge careful consideration of the consequences and an alternative strategy to keep our roads safe.”