CLEVER crooks who stole three speed cameras valued at over £30,000 from a 17-mile stretch of a Borders road have left police puzzled,.
It is believed the culprits who took cameras at Birkenside at Earlston and Headshaw near Oxton in October are also responsible for the theft of another device earlier this month at Newtown St Boswells, all along the A68.
But as yet, no-one has been caught and the road safety equipment has not been recovered.
Police say the thefts are unusual as a saw was used in each incident, while the criminals knew that each metal housing contained a camera.
Of the 15 camera housings along the A68, only a percentage have a live camera inside, with Lothian and Borders Safety Camera Partnership shifting the machines every seven days.
A spokeswoman for LBSCP said the Headshaw camera would be replaced by a machine from another area of Scotland, at a cost of £7,500, while new cameras would be installed at Birkenside and Newtown, each costing the taxpayer £12,000.
However, there is not believed to be a market for second-hand speed cameras, making the thefts even more of a mystery.
The spokeswoman added: “Since the latest attack on the safety camera on the A68 at Newtown St Boswells, Lothian and Borders Police have increased patrols to check on the safety cameras on the A68, the A697 and on the A1 in an effort to prevent any further instances of crime committed against the safety cameras.
“In the meantime, police officers are following several lines of enquiry to ascertain who has been responsible for these attacks.
“Safety cameras can only be located at places where there is a history of collisions and speeding; removing a safety camera from its location puts all motorists at a greater danger of being involved in what could be a serious collision.”
A Lothian and Borders Police spokesman added: “We have seen people set fire to cameras in the past but these attacks have seen them removed using a power saw which would take up to ten minutes and would be noisy.”
A total of 17 accidents have happened across the three sites since the cameras were introduced in January 1999.
But a clue behind the motive for the attacks could be that all three cameras witness a high percentage of vehicles breaking the speed limit.
At Birkenside, half of all drivers travel in excess of 60mph - around 2,750 vehicles per day - while a quarter of the 10,000 motorists passing the Newtown camera are speeding.
LBSCP’s most recent survey also show that 9,235 vehicles pass Headshaw each day, 17 per cent beyond the limit.
On the Newtown camera theft, Inspector Brian Jones, Scottish Borders Road Policing Branch for Lothian and Borders Police, said: “Lothian and Borders Police is taking this very seriously and are investigating.
“If any member of the public has information they think might relate to any of the crimes please contact the police on 0131 311 3131 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously.
“It could be that a passing motorist witnessed what they thought was a maintenance vehicle servicing the camera and this might not have been the case.”
Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for community safety, Councillor Donald Moffat said: “If a camera has been installed at a specific location, it is there for a very good reason - to prevent accidents and deter motorists from speeding. These attacks are putting everyone who uses the A68 at a greater risk of being involved in what could be a serious collision.”
A spate of speed camera attacks were carried out in Newcastle in 2001, with a group of vigilantes calling themselves Motorists Against Speed Camera Extortion claiming responsibility.