Councils keen to police roads

By ELIZABETH BINNING

Boy racers, rat runners and window washers be warned - council-appointed traffic police may soon be on your trail.

Auckland, North Shore and Hamilton City Councils, frustrated by motorists who break traffic rules, are looking to get their own traffic officers to make the streets safer.

In Hamilton, councillors have called a meeting with police and local MPs to discuss the establishment of a special council-run traffic unit capable of fining and prosecuting traffic law breakers.

The move follows a revamp in the Local Government Act which will give local bodies the "power of general competence", enabling them to run traffic units.

Councillor Brian Impson, chairman of Hamilton's works and services committee, said councillors were frustrated at their inability to enforce city laws, and police did not have the time or resources to do so.

The biggest concern in Hamilton was rat runners (motorists and truck drivers taking shortcuts through restricted residential streets) and "hoons" racing through the town.

"The hoon problem happens spasmodically and it's moving around all the time.

If the police patrol one area the hoons move to another.

"We are saying give us the right to ticket these truck drivers and the right to prosecute hoon drivers."

Other city councils were also looking at how they could police the streets.

In Auckland, the council wants to fine motorists who drive in priority bus lanes. The North Shore City Council already has Government approval to employ traffic officers with that power.

Robin Read-Bloomfield, a former Ministry of Transport officer, said that more than thirty years ago most major city councils employed traffic officers who had the power to stop motorists, hand out tickets and keep unsafe cars off the road.

But those units were phased out during the 1970s and 1980s after the Ministry of Transport's black and white patrol cars took to the roads. The ministry then merged with the police in 1993.

Mr Read-Bloomfield said establishing similar units again would be expensive to set up but they could play a vital role.

The concept already has the support of Waikato's top traffic officer, Inspector Leo Tooman.

He said the unit could also deal with other city issues, including window washers who plague motorists at major intersections, and skateboarders.

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