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 New Crook Speedwatch van is first in country to use specialist technology

 30/08/2019

Durham Constabulary has become the first force in the country to use specialist ANPR technology to keep road users safe.

The idea for a unique Speedwatch van was born when officers within the Crook Neighbourhood Police Team were brainstorming on how to improve the volunteer-led service last March.

The traditional Speedwatch scheme sees volunteers use a speed matrix to manually record speeding drivers who pass them.

However, this involves relying on the accuracy of the volunteers’ eye and multiple vehicles can be difficult to register all at once, especially in harsh weather conditions.

But after teaming up with the 3 Towns Area Action Partnership (3 Towns AAP) and speciality traffic sign firm, Westcotec, officers were able to design their own Speedwatch van which is the first of its kind in the UK.

Utilising the latest intelligent radar technology, an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Camera and a Speed Indicator Display (SID) with safety camera warning legend beneath, the equipment works together to clock speeding vehicles.

If above the speed limit, the sign will flash in warning as the driver approaches and if the driver continues to speed, the camera will capture the registration of the vehicle along with its speed.

The camera can also register multiple vehicles at a time, making results much more reliable and these are sent straight through to a laptop operated by volunteers in the front cabin meaning they will also be protected from the elements.

PC Ellis Hutchinson, who led the project, said he was delighted the van was finally ready and had been worth the wait.

He said: “This van has allowed us to enhance the capability of our volunteers and our data quality while we have also achieved our aim to support the volunteers’ hard work whilst having an impact on driver behaviour.

“We are confident this will contribute to reducing casualties and educate drivers on the importance of sticking to the speed limit.

“Of course we are always looking for more Speedwatch volunteers too and hope the chance to operate this state-of-the-art technology will encourage more residents to come forward to help keep their communities safe.

“We would also like to thank the councillors who have contributed to this invaluable project.”

In further planned developments, warning letters will be automatically generated by the van’s system and sent to the driver, while further action can also be taken if they are caught multiple times.

Chris Spinks, managing director of Westcotec, said the team were really excited to work with officers on the project.

Mr Spinks, who is a former chief inspector with Norfolk Police, said the company always invited input from their customers and knew the Speedwatch van would be a particularly good idea when PC Hutchinson suggested it.

“We started looking at ways to have an automated Speedwatch team and that’s when the Crook team suggested the device in a van,” he said. “It’s a really clear and visible deterrent to slow people down and means people can have that choice to slow down before they get clocked.”

He added: “It’s been great to work on as I have an understanding of the issues and challenges the police face around this issue.

“Westcotec is all about educating the driver and providing them with more information so they can make a better decision and alter their behaviour.

“We want to thank Durham Police for the opportunity to work with them to produce something to make a real difference.”

The van was manufactured in France and was made possible thanks to funding from several 3 Towns AAP councillors who collectively contributed £25,395.

The councillors are Cllr Olwyn Gunn, Cllr Patricia Jopling, Cllr Richard Manchester, Cllr Andrea Patterson, Cllr Anne Reed and Cllr Fraser Tinsley.

It has even inspired bosses at Heathrow Airport who have also now adopted the same technology in their carparks.

Sandy Denney, 3 Towns Area Action Partnership co-ordinator, said: “Community safety is a key priority for us and a concern for residents so we are delighted all of our local councillors chose to support this innovative scheme with their 3 Towns Partnership AAP neighbourhood budgets. This project is a first not only for County Durham but for the country.

“Speeding vehicles pose a serious threat to pedestrians and other road users so it is important we support the police.

“This van will build upon the fantastic work already being carried out by Speedwatch volunteers and sends out a strong message that speeding will not be tolerated in County Durham.”

Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg added: “It is great to see that these fantastic volunteers now have this vehicle, which will enable them to extend the fabulous work they do to make their communities safer.

“We are very grateful to the Three Towns AAP for their funding to help make this happen and I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with them.”

The van was launched today, at a special event at Crook Council offices.

To volunteer for Speedwatch or for more information call 101 and ask to speak to Crook Police Team.