Published: 06:00, 08 June 2019
| Updated: 08:38, 08 June 2019
Drivers racing through a town are playing Russian roulette with the town’s speed cameras after it emerged the boxes are empty almost 70% of the time.
A KentOnline investigation has revealed the two fixed Gatsos - named after the Dutch company who made them - were out of action in Faversham for a combined 48 months across a three-year period.
It meant just 523 drivers were captured by the cameras last year, compared to more than 1,500 across 2016 and 2017.
KMTV spoke to a local driving instructor and councillor about the cameras
The device on the A2 at Ospringe was active for just four months during the three-year period.
Meanwhile, the camera on the A2 at Faversham was completely out of action last year, despite catching 1,522 motorists – and bringing in just under £40,000 in fines – in 2016 and 2017.
The Kent and Medway Safety Camera Partnership (KMSCP), which operates the Gatsos, says equipment is switched between its network of camera boxes at the request of Kent Police.
Retired police officer Ashley Clark has accused the authorities of “total incompetence”.
“At the end of the day, what’s the point of having a camera if they’re not actually doing what they set out to do?,” he said.
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately is also concerned about the cameras not being operational – particularly the one placed on the A2 just outside the Abbey School, where she has been calling for a new crossing to help pupils cross safely.
“Hundreds of children cross the A2 every day to get to the Abbey School, so it’s worrying that the speed camera hasn’t been working,” she said.
“I appreciate that cameras can still be a deterrent even if they’re not working, but catching people speeding near a school should be a priority.
"What’s the point of having a camera if they’re not actually doing what they set out to do?" Cllr Ashley Clark
“This makes the need for a new, safer pedestrian crossing all the more urgent.”
Faversham driving instructor Eddie Thomas said the lack of working cameras is “not good enough”.
He said: “Cameras are one of the few things we have to deter people from speeding. I don’t have a problem with the cameras sometimes not being operational, but this is terrible.
“It sets a bad example for young drivers, if they don’t believe there’s any penalty for breaking the rules.
“It’s very frustrating that people who break the limit and disregard people’s safety aren’t caught.”
A spokesman for KMSCP confirmed camera boxes across the county are often empty for long periods of time.
“Each camera housing across the county does not always have the actual camera equipment,” they explained.
“The cameras are rotated between housings across Kent and Medway. Kent Police determine which housings have cameras in them, and when.
“Safety cameras are an education tool, not just for enforcement. The fear of detection is the deterrent.
"The cameras themselves have been upgraded to digital, from the old wet film type. Most of the housings were rusty and failing, therefore the housings were upgraded too.Some old housings do exist, but the insides have been upgraded to accommodate the new (slightly larger) digital cameras.
"The fear of detection is affecting driver behaviour..." KMSCP spokesman
"The rotation of cameras around housing across the county has always been the strategy – even before digital cameras were introduced and wet film cameras were in use.
"Nothing has changed at all, just the speed at which offences can be viewed by Kent Police and the relevant documents sent to the registered vehicle owner.
" The housings alone are the enforcement tool as the general public do not know which housing has a live camera inside, therefore the fear of detection is affecting driver behaviour, and may not generate any offences (camera present or not)."
Detective Chief Inspector Ed Ruffle told KentOnline how cameras are placed by councils in specific areas to reduce road deaths and serious injuries, adding: “It is the responsibly of all drivers to ensure they always adhere to speed limits.”
Kent County Council says the location of safety cameras is reviewed every three years.
Reliance on mobile cameras?
Fixed speed cameras are backed up by a number of mobile speed cameras - operating on roads across the district including Mickleburgh Hill in Herne Bay, and Pean Hill in Whitstable.
A mobile camera has been in regular operation on Rheims Way in Canterbury - consistently catching more than 1,000 speeding drivers annually.
But despite this, the total number of drivers issued fines in Canterbury has dropped by more than 70% in the last three years.
What you think?
The placement of the city's cameras has come into question - particularly that of the gatso in Pin Hill, where there is no pavement, and congestion often forces traffic to move slowly. Some also argue cameras are urgently needed elsewhere.
David Cassidy said: "The stretch of A2990 Thanet Way between Greenhill Roundabout and Tesco Roundabout could do with a couple. Most nights this road is used beyond the speed limit."
Lynette Coleman added: "Areas with pedestrians in them need the speed cameras don’t they? Rarely see pedestrians trying to cross Pin Hill. Many roads around Canterbury need 20mph speed limits; just take the stupid speed humps and chicanes away."