Scotland’s roadside police cut-outs prove popular, but do they cut speeding?

Life-size pictures of police officers deployed beside roads reduce concerns about speeding even if they may not slow down drivers, research has revealed.

The acrylic figures holding speed cameras have proved hugely popular among communities concerned about vehicles travelling too fast, with 32 requests for them from Edinburgh neighbourhoods since being launched nine months ago.

They have even been given names – “Pop-Up Bobs” and “Pop-Up Kirstys” in the capital, and “Pop-Up Jims” in Dundee.

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Pop-Up Kirsty with Edinburgh Councillor Susan Webber and Inspector Kieran Dougal in Juniper Green

Similar stand-up images have been used to deter other types of crime, with discount chain Home Bargains using them against shoplifters.

British Transport Police has provided another to keep an eye on the concourse at Glasgow Central, Scotland’s busiest railway station.

In Dundee, two Pop-Up Jims, which each cost £250, have significantly cut complaints about speeding.

Sergeant Lesley Mann, who spearheaded the initiative, said: “Before Pop-Up Jim, I would get at least two emails a week from residents complaining about speeding. Now it’s maybe one a month at most.”

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander said: “I have had zero representations made to me since the introduction of the Pop-Up Jims. Prior to their introduction, I did have some constituents who regularly contacted me regarding speeding issues.

“If that’s any measure of success then I’d say they’ve worked fantastically well.”

However, Stephen Cragg, former secretary of the city’s Kirkton Community and Safety Partnership, where the figures were used, said his initial research had not proved they prompted motorists to slow down.

It involved using hidden sensors to compare vehicle speeds when Pop-Up Jims and police officers with cameras were at the same locations on different days.

Cragg said of the findings, presented at the Scottish Transport Applications and Research conference in Glasgow last week: “The data analysed for Pop-up Jim was inconclusive about whether ‘Jim’ has an effect on reducing the numbers of drivers exceeding the speed. He might be doing it, but I cannot be sure.

“With more evaluation, we might see a small effect and speeds being reduced.

“Officers on the street have a much bigger effect, and Pop-Up Jim is not a substitute.”

Edinburgh City Council said its figures had been a big hit in helping to promote the capital’s 20mph limits.

Transport vice-convener Karen Doran said: “Since 2018, we’ve been giving people the opportunity to use Pop-Up Bob as a visual reminder to drivers to drive within the 20mph speed limit, in partnership with Police Scotland. We’ve had a great response from the public, who have been requesting Bob to deter speeding in areas where they feel it is an issue.”

The figures were initially deployed in Ratho and Balerno, and have also helped reduce speeding complaints in Juniper Green.

Inspector Kieran Dougal said: “It has really assisted with our ability to deal with the numerous speeding complaints we get throughout south-west Edinburgh, and having been so successful and well received we now have another Pop-Up in the area – Pop-Up Kirsty – to enable police, along with partners, to deploy them.”