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Catch me if you can! Citizen Speed Watchers helping the police in South Somerset

Change Management

Teams of police-trained volunteers now monitor traffic passing through areas with speed limits, using radar or laser speed guns to identify those exceeding the limit. Citizen-led teams normally carry out two or more one hour long roadside watches per week and are being joined by police regularly. All equipment is provided at no direct cost to communities by the South Somerset Community Speed Watch Co-ordinators Group (funded by the Community Safety Partnership in the area).

Vehicles observed breaking the speed limit are reported to the police, who then advise the driver by letter on the first and second occasions they are reported that they need to drive more carefully in future.  On the third or subsequent occasions, they are contacted directly by the police, or other appropriate action is taken.

South Somerset District Council first became involved when dealing with complaints coming from some groups of citizen street watchers who were then operating in the area. The police had instigated the original programme but lacked adequate resources to meet the demands of the residents. In particular, citizens complained that the letters that needed to be sent to people reported for speeding were being processed too slowly. The Council proposed to make some funding available to the police to help out but this was declined as they had no staff internally to deliver it. The District Council then took the lead by funding a part time co-ordinator to deal with letter processing and support for the volunteers by training them in camera operation, etc.


This led to the development of a Community Speed Watch Steering Group, which in turn took ownership of the programme. The Community Safety Partnership, including the police, South Somerset District Council and members of the public, introduced a Code of Practice, so that speed watchers knew the operational criteria and standards that they had to keep to in carrying out their duties effectively. It also raised funds to support fully the development of existing and new groups. A referral system was set up and further police support was gained to tackle repeat offenders and those travelling at particularly excessive speeds.

A bespoke recording system was then developed by the community to record operational information. This soon developed into a strong management tool for identifying the effectiveness of groups and monitoring the actions of partners. It has proved valuable to put this information on the website, so that the teams can assess how effective they are and in addition, they also have access to the database that holds the detailed records for individual teams and sites. This enables teams to assess performance and improve their own operation.

Given that fully co-ordinated support was now available for the volunteers, new groups were quickly formed in areas that were identified to have a problem, leading to the employment of a full time co-ordinator. A steady increase in operations has been experienced over the last five years, with over 15,000 educational letters being sent to motorists this year.

As a result of the partnership structures in the area, the Fire Service has now dedicated some resources to the programme to ensure that the letter processing is carried out, not only for all schemes in South Somerset but now also for those being developed across the rest of Somerset. There is a commitment from the Fire Service to quadruple the existing resource being put in by South Somerset District Council, in recognition of the dramatic effect the scheme is having on speeding drivers and the opportunity for further community development.

About this case study
Main Contact

Rina Singh

Strategic Director (Place and Performance)

South Somerset District Council



Rina Singh provided Governance International with this case study on 6th April 2010.

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