Use of cardboard cops to cut out speeding in Borders called into question

Constables Lorraine King and Gordon Latto and councillors Tom Adams and Charles Haffey with one of the cardboard cutout cops in Levenmouth in Fife.
Constables Lorraine King and Gordon Latto and councillors Tom Adams and Charles Haffey with one of the cardboard cutout cops in Levenmouth in Fife.

A former Borders police chief is questioning the use of life-size cardboard cutout police officers in the region in a bid to deter drivers from speeding.

The figures, in high-visibility attire and pictured holding speed cameras, can look like the real thing from a distance as drivers are speeding by.

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer.

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer.

The pretend policemen, deployed in other parts of Scotland in recent years, are being tried out at speeding hot spots across the Borders, though the specific locations in mind are not being identified so as not to give advance warning to drivers likely to exceed 30mph.

The pop-up police officers, nicknamed Pop-Up Bob by police but dubbed scarecrows by detractors, were first used in Fife in 2013.

A debate is raging, however, as to whether they offer a real deterrent or are merely a gimmick to cover for a lack of police manpower.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer, detective chief superintendent and head of criminal investigation for Lothian and Borders Police until his retirement in 2004, has mixed feelings about the initiative.

Though giving it a cautious welcome, he believes real officers rather than fake ones would be a better solution to the problem.

Mr McAteer, also honorary provost for Hawick, said: “I am aware of the cutout policeman initiative, and while it may have some impact in reducing the speed of visiting motorists, it will have little impact on local drivers’ behaviour. “While I welcome any road safety initiative, I would much prefer to see more real officers and traffic patrol cars working in Hawick and the borders.”

Mr McAteer, chairman of the council’s police, fire and rescue and safer communities board, believes police numbers in the Borders are now “dangerously low”, saying: “I am sensing a growing frustration at what are being positioned as the new normal standards for policing in this area”.

The cutout photos, of Cowdenbeath constable James Graham, will be placed alongside roads where persistent speeding is a problem.

Road policing inspector Vinnie Fisher said: “Road safety is a high priority for Borders communities and features in the Scottish Borders local policing plan.

“This is just one of the innovative measures police and partner organisations are taking to make Borders roads safer.

“It has worked well in other areas of Scotland, serving as an effective visual reminder to road users to stay within the law.”