“THERE’S a mathematical formula around the committing of crime. It’s a function of crime getting detected, getting caught, reward and conviction. Any offender whether they are speeding or robbing a bank will carry out a sub-conscious cost-benefit analysis.”

So says Haughton and Springfield councillor Chris McEwan as he jots down the speed, vehicle make, model and registration number and the driver’s gender details of the third speeding car on Stockton Road, Darlington, in as many minutes.

The Darlington Borough councillor and resident Tony Thorp are standing in a prominent position on the verge, outside homes in Stockton Road to carry out a Community Speedwatch session.

They’re wearing hi-visibility jackets and display warning signs to motorists either side of a speed measuring and display device.

There’s a trickle of abuse from passing motorists shouting “jobworths” and other less pleasant names, a steady flow of support from others raising their thumbs and tooting their horns, but the number going above the speed limit come thick and fast. Despite this, the pair say they are starting to see a fall in the number of motorists they’re logging at more than ten per cent above the speed limit on their twice weekly sessions. One car appears to be taking the speed check particularly seriously and passes at 16mph, with a long line of traffic behind it.

“We have been here for the last four weeks, once or twice a week”, says Cllr McEwan, “so people are starting to see us and think we need to slow down on this road. We’re not going to stop everybody.”

Both he and Mr Thorp are keen to highlight the scheme is educational rather than being about enforcement.

Cllr McEwan said: “This is the area where we have had the most complaints about. If we start to get into people’s minds that there is a risk of being recorded, they will start to think I’m not going to take the risk.”

The pair point to figures from organisations such as Roadwise, North Yorkshire’s road safety partnership, which state if you hit a pedestrian at 40mph there is a 90 per cent chance they will be killed, but at 30mph the probability of a fatal incident falls to 20 per cent.

However, for Mr Thorpe it’s not about “educating” those who drive a couple of miles an hour about the speed limit.

He said: “I have to walk up and down here with a dog every morning and afternoon and some of them are maniacs. This morning one driver with a big trailer on the back was going between 50 and 60mph.”

Local residents are quick to confirm Mr Thorpe’s claims.

Accountant Ken Lemin said: “A lot of people speed up and down here, often at 50 or 60mph. Not so much when it is as busy as it is at the moment.

“When it’s a bit quieter you can tell inside the house by the roar of the car. There’s no cameras on this part so they have nothing to lose.”

Mr Lemin said while he supported the Community Speedwatch scheme he would like to see either speed cameras or sleeping policemen installed to force drivers to put the brakes on.

Durham Constabulary does not use fixed safety cameras and has no plans to change this stance. Instead the force deploys mobile safety cameras as the preferred option, with the emphasis on encouraging and educating drivers to reduce their speed to acceptable levels.

The flexibility of using mobile cameras means many areas can be targeted rather than a few fixed locations, enabling police to better address community concerns.

The Community Speedwatch team believes many of the offenders are non-locals who have failed to slow down sufficiently as they come into the 30mph area after leaving the 70mph A66. 

Mr Thorp said: “By the time they get here they should be used to 30mph. But it’s not isolated this road. It happens many places. Barmpton Lane, the other side of the roundabout is another favourite place for speeders.”

However, Cllr McEwan says while speeding is an issue across the borough, police have agreed to deploy traffic officers for 90 minutes at hotspots in Haughton ward once or twice a month.

In the meantime, those logged by the volunteers driving between 34mph and 37mph will get a letter telling them their speed has been noted.

Those driving up to 40mph get a letter, but also face prosecution. 

If Community Speedwatch identifies a significant speeding problem then Neighbourhood Policing Teams can call upon assistance from the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit for further intervention through a more detailed problem analysis, directed enforcement action and consideration of longer term resolutions.

Cllr McEwan said: “On the doorstep the number one issue is Brexit. However, speeding is clearly an issue of high priority. We need to recognise that the police can’t be everywhere and it’s appropriate for local people, if they have an issue, to seek volunteers to step up.

“We had a guy stop us yesterday who shouted ‘what are you doing this for?’.  We thought we were in for some abuse, but then he added ‘No, I live over the road, it’s really good you know’.”