Thieves strike at fourth A68 speed camera location

Vandalised speed camera on the A68 along the Newtown St. Boswells by-pass.
Vandalised speed camera on the A68 along the Newtown St. Boswells by-pass.

A FOURTH speed camera on the A68 has been vandalised and the camera housing stolen.

The latest attack on the Borders’ network of cameras occurred sometime before midnight on Sunday evening near Longnewton Sawmill, between Jedburgh and St Boswells.

The camera, which covered the northbound lane of the carriageway, was sawn from the post and stolen, in a repeat of three incidents which took place towards the end of last year.

In October, cameras at Birkenside, near Earlston, and Headshaw, close to Oxton, were removed, as was one at Newtown St Boswells in December.

Lothian and Borders Police are carrying out inquiries into the most recent incident and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

The theft has been criticised by the force’s local area commander, in particular in light of the five deaths on the A68 and A697 just before Christmas.

Superintendent Andrew Allan told TheSouthern: “Safety cameras are based at accident hot-spots and recent thefts of cameras have been followed by a rise in fatalities and serious injuries at or near those routes.

“I will be increasing the use of the mobile camera systems and seeking early replacement of the fixed ones with the latest technology. This is to reduce further casualties,” said Supt Allan.

“They are a valuable tool in preserving life. None of this is about the volume of cash raised – I don’t see those figures and wouldn’t be concerned about them. What I am worried about is the number of people killed or injured in road traffic collisions.”

Victoria Edmond from the Lothian and Borders Safety Camera Partnership said that the cameras had ‘no intrinsic value’ as the internal technology could not be used for any other purpose, and the metal is so light that the scrap value is minimal.

It is understood that at least one of the stolen cameras will be replaced by the end of March, with the others following as soon as funding is available.

Just last month, Transport Scotland announced a £2.4million package to replace safety cameras across the country.

The new cameras, using digital technology, will offer a number of benefits, including improved reliability, faster processing of offences and clearer images of offending vehicles.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “Safety cameras have been shown to play an important part in helping to achieve road-casualty reductions and as such, this £2.4million investment will see all wet film safety cameras that detect speeding upgraded to digital technology.

“This will increase their capacity and in doing so help contribute further towards keeping our roads safe.”

A fire service report submitted to Scottish Borders Council on Friday revealed that 32 people were killed or injured on Borders roads between October 1 and December 31, 2012, up from 10 during the same period in 2011.

Commenting on the figures, Supt Allan said: “Driving in the Borders is an ongoing frustration of mine because we are significantly above the Scottish average for fatalities and serious injuries caused by road collisions.

“The road traffic figures are a challenge for us and the communities in the Borders. Each fatality and serious injury is both a personal and family tragedy.

“We continue to work with the council and commercial partners to prevent casualties. This has included the ‘Crucial Crew’ events, young driver events and other safety-based activities.”

He added: “Drink driving, use of mobile phones and lack of care overtaking are all offences that continue to be issues in the Scottish Borders and affect the safety both of those committing them and other road users.

“It is also worth noting that we are confiscating an increasing number of uninsured cars that are being used on Borders roads.”

Despite the high number of deaths and injuries on local roads in the third quarter of the year, the total figure looks likely to be similar to the 2011/12 figure of 65.

Supt Allan said: “While the figures this year are not great, they are better than they could have been.

“Because the summer weather was so bad, we were actually below where we expected to be with motorbiking injuries and fatalities.”

However, Supt Allan stated he was worried about the skill levels of recreational bikers who will hit the roads again in the spring and summer, after a longer time than usual off their bikes due to the poor weather.