Smile, you're on a speed camera

MOTORISTS caught speeding could soon face the prospect of having pictures of their faces taken as well as their number plates if trials in Essex are successful.

MOTORISTS caught speeding could soon face the prospect of having pictures of their faces taken as well as their number plates if trials in Essex are successful.

The Essex Safety Camera Partnership is in the middle of erecting new front-facing speed cameras in an effort to reduce the number of casualties on the road.

One in south Essex is already operational, but more are planned if the trial, which will report back its results in November, proves successful.

At a cost of £12,000 apiece to install, the new cameras are being placed ahead of the existing ones and face the driver's windscreen.

They are triggered by an infrared beam, which is activated when the first camera flashes as a speeding car passes by.

Essex Police insist the driver's vision will not be affected by the second device.

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Existing rear-facing cameras will have to remain in place to ensure that speeding motorbikes, which do not have front registration plates, are still captured.

Brian Ladd, casualty reduction manager for Essex Police, said the new cameras, the first of their kind in the country, were necessary to both help deter motorists from speeding, but also to help settle disputed penalty notices, which have increased significantly in the last few months.

However, he also acknowledged that they would play an important role in detecting other crimes, such as capturing thieves who have stolen cars.

At the partnership's headquarters in Billericay yesterday, Mr Ladd explained that neither Essex Police, or the partnership, were using speed cameras to raise revenue.

“They are there to reduce accidents pure and simple,” he added. “There is no profit in this, only cost recovery.”

According to the partnership's latest accounts for 2002/3, more than £5.6million in £60 penalty tickets was raised from the some 100 fixed and mobile roadside cameras in the county.

Of this, Essex Police and the Highways Authority – made up mainly of Essex County Council, Southend on Sea Borough Council, Thurrock Council and Essex magistrate courts – “recover” their costs.

The total costs in 2002/3 were £5.1million, which equates to around £51,500 per camera per year, or £141 per camera per day. The £500,000 surplus was retained by the Treasury.

Included in Essex Police's costs was a bill for £460,000 to refurbish new offices in Billericay and support staff and police officer costs of £1.4million.

Travel and “subsistence” expenses of £84,184 were also claimed and postage amounted to £116,696.

More than £1.2million was also spent by the Highways authority on new speed camera equipment. Around £114,000 was spent on camera maintenance, including £5,460 on removing graffiti and £3,555 was incurred renewing the white line secondary check markings at nine sites – almost £400 per site.

Trevor Hall, the partnership's camera enforcement manager, said the costs were worthwhile because they reduced the number of accidents in the areas where they had been implemented.

He said: “We are also looking at other ways of getting more cameras out there – because they do work.

“There's a big misconception that we are in this for money, which is false – we would love not to have any revenue because that would mean no one was speeding.”

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