Fredericton enlists citizens to catch speeders
Criminology prof warns initiative could 'go horribly wrong'
A new citizens group in Fredericton may soon help catch speeding drivers in the New Brunswick capital.
The Fredericton Police Force is working out the final details of a citizen-assisted radar program that will start in 2012.
Volunteers will set up radar monitoring equipment at a hot spot for speeding assigned to them by the police.
"We would send a form letter to the registered owner, just letting them know that the vehicle was observed speeding in that area," said Staff Sgt. Brian Ford, who heads the Neighbourhood Action Team. "The letter, although it might not be the registered owner driving — it may be a relative — but the registered owner would know that the vehicle was observed and they could take it as a warning."
"It's an interesting program to leverage community commitment to public safety; cops can't do it all and we've been saying that for years," MacKnight said.
MacKnight said once the details of the program are worked out, the police department will start recruiting volunteers.
Idea could 'go horribly wrong'
A university professor said the police force must be careful about how this volunteer initiative is implemented.
Michael Boudreau, a criminology professor at St. Thomas University, said police will actually have to oversee the citizens recruited to catch motorists.
Boudreau said he also believes the idea shows the strains within the police force in cracking down on speeding.
"On the surface, it seems like a good idea, but it has the potential to go horribly wrong if the citizens are not closely monitored by the police," he said.
"It does highlight that the police are understaffed. It may also highlight that the problem of speeding in and around Fredericton has become such a problem that the police are at their wits' end."
The criminology professor said the police will need to ensure the volunteers face their own background checks.
As well, Boudreau said, police are ultimately responsible for any mistakes, even if they are unintentional. He said if a person writes down the wrong licence plate number and a letter is sent to that vehicle's owner, then the police have to take responsibility.
"The question becomes, who's ultimately responsible for this mistake: the citizen or the police? Ultimately, it is the police because that's their authority. So the police always have to be careful in terms of how much of their authority, either real or imagined, they hand over to citizens."