Headlines: May 19th, 2004

Support for the idea that respect for rank and file police officers is being damaged by the increasing use of speed cameras will come today from a leading motoring organisation. Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, will tell the Police Federation conference that many other serious motoring offences and mainstream crimes are going undetected and he will call for the re-introduction of traffic policing as a core function of forces and for 15 per cent of all police officers to concentrate on traffic issues.Police officers have already spoken of their concerns that they are losing the support of the public due to an over reliance on speed cameras. The RAC Foundation is also worried that a significant drop in the numbers of traffic police in England and Wales is enabling offenders to get away with serious crimes.

Edmund King will demand urgent action to curb the decline in traffic police numbers and to provide a more visible police presence on the nation’s roads. While recommending that at least 15 per cent of all police officers should concentrate on traffic issues, he will also stress that they should have a dual role in the detection of both traffic and wider criminal offences. This could be further enhanced with the use of intelligence derived from both road user crime and mainstream crime.

He will also recommend that speed cameras are concentrated at accident black spots and traffic lights with clear speed limit signs and that there should be a national scheme of speed awareness courses offered in lieu of fines and penalty points. The foundation also wants to see an independent audit of the role of safety camera partnerships and the location of camera sites. It is worried that offences that cannot be caught on camera, such as drink driving, careless driving and drug driving are going largely undetected and the “motoring underclass” – people driving without insurance, tax or licences – is increasing.