By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Nearly two months into the school year, the advertisements and reminders to slow down in school zones have all been packed away for another year. But for volunteer members of Morinville’s Citizens on Patrol, the need to remind motorists to check their speed is a year round mission, not just something to talk about when summer is over.
Each week a couple of the group’s roughly one dozen volunteers sets up shop in front of Morinville’s three public schools – Notre Dame elementary, École Georges P. Vanier School and Georges H. Primeau, rotating their speed sign in conjunction with when the three schools let in and let out.
“The intent is mostly to make people aware of their speed, sort of like the signs coming into town,” said COP volunteer Randy Jordan. “It’s probably the best possible alternative you could have to finding out your speed. They don’t cost you money, they don’t cause you tickets, they don’t hurt a child.”
Unlike Morinville’s photo radar program, which is praised and criticized by residents, Randy said response to the COP’s speed sign has been mostly positive. Neither intended as deterrent or enforcement, the COP simply place the sign in various areas of town to alert drivers as to their speed, recording what they observe of motorist’s habits.
“Generally it’s really good,” Jordan said of the program, noting the RCMP, parents and students themselves have all expressed their appreciation for the efforts. “You get the odd person who flips the bird or something, but there are always going to be people like that.”
Jordan said thus far he has been pleased with the numbers appearing on the COP’s portable speed sign. Although they have spotted a few speeding through Morinville school zones over the past couple months, the majority of drivers have been below the posted speed limit.
“You’re never too sure if you are recording things accurately or by the fact of you being there, you are changing people’s behaviour,” Jordan said. “In either case it doesn’t really matter because what we’re trying to do is have people keep their speed down in school zones.”
Ideally, the COP would like to continue the program on into the winter months. Much of that will depend on how many volunteers the local group has.
ONE OF MANY ACTIVITIES
Jordan said the school zone speed program is one of many activities the Citizens on Patrol are involved in. Started about 15 years ago in Morinville, the Morinville branch of COP has a mandate of being of assistance to traditional law enforcement.
“Our motto is we are the eyes and ears of the RCMP,” he said, noting the group patrols town in marked and unmarked vehicles looking for potential trouble spots, particularly on weekends and late at night. “We don’t get involved. We’re strictly eyes and ears. We never confront. If we see something suspicious, we phone it into dispatch and they’ll send somebody out to check it.”
The COP volunteer said the group is down a bit on members and can always use more to help with patrols or other initiatives, including the speed zone program.
For more information on the Morinville Citizens on Patrol, visit www.morinvillecop.org.