SPEED watch volunteers in the Holsworthy area are becoming more proactive in the prevention of speeding in their local communities following the recent purchase of two new speed detection devices, writes Zoë Uglow.

The Post went along on Thursday, May 3, to see what it’s all about.

The Community Speed Watch programme is overseen by the neighbourhood police team, but volunteers have the freedom to carry out speed assessments in their local area whenever they see fit without police supervision.

PFCSO Mark James, along with PCSO Raquel Rowe, helped get the Holsworthy area community speed watch group going. PFCSO James explained that although the police support the community in this venture it is predominantly volunteer led. He said: “The police manage the watches, but in terms of the sessions they are completely volunteer led.

“We have found that regular sessions have seen a marked improvement in the speeds recorded in certain areas and we hope the purchase of this new kit will ensure people slow down in areas like this [Halwill Junction].”

The equipment will be kept in the local area so that it is easily accessible for the volunteers to use when necessary.

PFCSO James added: “This is community engagement at its highest level. People in the community are being active in solving a problem that they have identified.”

The community speed watch’s aim is not to penalise drivers but to educate those who exceed the speed limit by employing a staged warning system. For a first offence a letter will be sent to the individual with information. PFCSO James said: “It is basically a shot across the bows without having penalty points added to your license.”

If a person is recorded as breaking the speed limit again 12 months after the first offence they will receive an often hand delivered letter from a local neighbourhood police team member who will also provide words of advice. If a third offence is committed the person’s details are passed on to the road traffic policing unit.

PFCSO James said: “This system gives people the opportunity to adjust their driving style without gaining points on their license. It is about education and it works.”

Members of the speed watch group visited Halwill Junction to monitor the speeds of traffic at two key locations in the village. Within five minutes the volunteers recorded three vehicles exceeding the 30mph speed limit — with some travelling at 48/49mph. The details of each vehicle were noted down by the volunteers, along with a count of how many vehicles passed in that time so a proportional rate could be calculated.

This information will be passed on to the community speed watch co-coordinator so the staged warning system can be implemented.

Funding for the two new speed detection devices was supplied by Halwill Parish Council, Torridge district councillor Ian Parker and Devon County Councillor Barry Parsons.

Cllr Parsons joined the speed watch team on Thursday to see what his funding had procured and how it was enabling the community to be proactive in tackling an issue they felt strongly about. He said: “It’s wonderful that we have volunteers who are willing to support their community in this way.

He added his thanks to the police and volunteers: “I can’t thank the police and local volunteers enough for what they do for the local community.”

PFCSO James and the volunteers expressed their thanks to Cllrs Parsons and Parker for their support in funding these important pieces of equipment.

The volunteers all have their own reasons for why they joined up and how they feel community speed watch is benefitting their local area.

David Campbell, from Chilsworthy, is a Holsworthy Hamlets parish councillor and was previously a member of his local community speed watch in Northamptonshire before he relocated to the area. He said: “When we moved down here we became very aware of how many people weren’t always speeding on purpose but were just unaware that the speed limit was there. I live just on the edge of the village and we see a lot of people that only start slowing down once they hit the 30 zone, and some just ignore the sign altogether. I think speed watch is needed as it encourages people to take notice.”

Volunteer Margaret Bond, from Chilsworthy, joined the speed watch team last year and said it was a personal experience that drove her to join. She said: “To be quite honest it was a case of seeing cars coming through Chilsworthy at such a rate and exceeding the 30mph limit that made me want to join the speed watch. On one occasion I was crossing the road whilst out for a walk with my dog and I had to really trot on to get out of the way as a car was coming at such speed.

“It was then that I got chatting to David, he told me about speed watch and I thought I would get involved too.”

Evelyn Sharman, vice-chairman of Holsworthy Hamlets parish council, said she hopes the more frequent speed watch events will have a positive impact on people’s driving. She said: “We have recorded a significant number of vehicles travelling over the speed limit — around 50% before now. But it is improving and we do see less. I think the more we do these watches the more people will become aware. When people know the speed watch team are out you see them really slow down and if they know we could be out on any day of the week I think it will have a positive effect.”

Mike Jackson, from Milton Damerel, has been involved with the speed watch group since its inception in 2009. He said: “This is not a penalising exercise, it is educational. We just want to make drivers more aware of their speeds.

“A lot of roads don’t have pavements, especially in our rural areas, and this can be dangerous for pedestrians when cars are whizzing past at 40mph.”

Mike said in all his years as a volunteer speed watch member the incident that stood out for him was recording someone travelling at over 70mph through St Giles on the Heath’s 30mph zone. He said: “They were going that fast we could barely catch it on the gun [speed detection device]. PCSO Raquel Rowe was with us at the time and she called ahead to see if they could be stopped further down the road.”

He said that despite the increase in the amount of traffic, the proportional number of vehicles they catch exceeding the speed limit has slowly decreased over the years. “There aren’t too many of the second letters sent out these days so from that point of view people must be taking heed of the speed watches, well, you have to hope so don’t you!”

Bob Piddington, Halwill parish councillor, has been a member of the speed watch team for three years. He said: “I think the speed watch acts as a deterrent, but it is not just about doing it in Halwill, this is a national thing.”

Donald Osbourne, Halwill parish council clerk, is relatively new to the world of speed watch but said he would encourage others to volunteer. He said: “We as a parish council have been trying for years to get people to volunteer for this and I suddenly thought if I’m not willing to do it then I can’t really ask others too, so I decided to join up as a volunteer.”

There are around 20 volunteers in the Holsworthy area but the team is still looking for more people to join up and help tackle speeding in local areas.

Those that sign up are not committed to carry out speed watches every week, but PFCSO James said ‘the more that do it the better’. To find out more information contact the local neighbourhood police team. For anyone interested in volunteering or for more information about the community speed watch group contact the local neighbourhood police team, visit the website www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/speed-watch/ or email [email protected]