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Volunteers, police take on lead foots

Vern Spence and Richard McDonald log car speeds on Metchosin Road Thursday

Stew MacMillan is halfway through writing up a speeding ticket when a van shoots past. The West Shore RCMP constable flicks on the lights and pulls a quick U-turn in pursuit.

The driver would still have been speeding had it been a 50 kilometre per hour zone –  in this case it was near Sangster elementary in Colwood, a 30 km/h school zone where a slap on the wrist can cost $196. It can be $256 for those in a hurry.

MacMillan’s speed trap is the blunt end of the West Shore RCMP’s community policing “two strike” initiative. Strike one is Speed Watch volunteers with a radar gun and a speed-reader board. If that doesn’t slow a driver down, strike two is MacMillan waiting around the corner.

“In community policing, the mandate is education and awareness. Volunteers come out to make the school zones and playground zones safe,” MacMillan said. “The majority of people appreciate that.

“Most people that drive (past the van) slow down. For the other five to 10 per cent that don’t get it, I’m waiting down the road to remind them.”

“Two strikes” isn’t new, but it's been some time since Speed Watch and the West Shore RCMP traffic section worked in tandem. Speed Watch volunteers Richard McDonald and Vern Spence said the program is aggressively targeting playground and school zones, although a speed trap could be anywhere.

Last week the crew set up shop on Island Highway, near the casino. In three hours 2,800 cars went past. “We had eight drivers charged going 20 km/h over (the 50 km/h limit). The highest was 80 km/h, and that was after going past the Speed Watch van,” MacMillan said.

Volunteers keep a log of speeds and jot down licence plate numbers for drivers speeding excessively – those get a warning letter from the RCMP. For their shift near Sangster on Thursday, most drivers slowed to between 25 and 40 km/h. Only a few hit speeds higher than 50 km/h.

“I was a teacher for 25 years so I am very concerned about people speeding through school zones,” said McDonald, who also drives a Langford trolley bus. “I got involved because I want drivers to think about where they are.”

To volunteer for the Speed Watch program, call 250-474-2264 and ask for the community policing section.