Community speed-watch teams caught 35,000 drivers breaking the limit across Avon and Somerset last year, the force’s top officer has revealed.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said warning letters were sent out to all the offenders captured flouting the law by dozens of residents’ groups armed with hand-held speed guns.
Mr Marsh disclosed the huge number of motorists caught — almost 700 every week — as he defended the police’s speed enforcement policies, insisting they were not a “cash generation” for the constabulary.
Speaking on a Facebook Live broadcast with Avon & Somerset police & crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens, he said: “We encourage local communities to take some responsibility to work with us.
“So there are 124 community speed-watch teams working with our force who are supported by our camera teams and our neighbourhood policing teams.
“This is where local people, with some training and some equipment, in safe places monitor speed.
“Last year we sent out about 35,000 warning letters to people breaking the speed limit, and our neighbourhood teams backed that up by going round to repeat offenders and giving more significant warnings.”
Mr Marsh defended the force’s enforcement action against speeding motorists, insisting it deterred otherwise law-abiding people from putting their foot down behind the wheel because of the prospect of being caught, and that officers exercised their discretion for minor cases.
“There is something called the desistance theory which, even for people who would describe themselves as law-abiding and good, if there is some fear that they will be caught breaking the law, they’re much less likely to break the law,” he said.
“In terms of speed enforcement fines, it would be very foolish of me to talk about tolerance levels for speeding but I want to debunk the myth that people are caught 1mph or 2pmh over the speed limit.
“That is not the case.
“We comply with national guidance on this and in some cases we allow even more flexibility.
“So the people caught breaking the law actually really are.”
He said about 166,000 motorists are caught speeding in Avon & Somerset every year.
Mr Marsh said: “The vast majority, 140,000, go through an educational process which is a voluntary thing.
“About 20,000 get fixed penalty notices and 3,000 go straight to court because their speed was so outrageous that only a court can deal with it.
“The only revenue that’s created from that activity goes to cost recovery or initiatives to make our roads even safer, so this is not a cash generation for the police.
“We do more speed enforcement because this concept, the desistance theory, makes our roads safer.”
He said the number of serious road accidents was decreasing, bucking the national trend.
“Since 2014 our collisions including people killed or seriously injured reduced by 20 per cent, when this is mostly flatlining in other parts of the country,” Mr Marsh added.
Ms Mountstevens said: “There are a number of individuals who have picked up some really bad habits.
“Nothing drives me more insane than when I see people using mobile phones (at the wheel), and then we see people not wearing seatbelts.”
Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporter