New bill could give municipalities more powers to control public order ({{commentsTotal}})

Speed camera in Tallinn.
Speed camera in Tallinn. Source: (Rene Suurkaev / ERR)

The Interior Ministry will start drafting a bill which would give municipalities the right to install speed cameras in their territory and give them more powers to deal with public order.

The bill would also expand the powers of law enforcement officers in municipalities, allowing them to lock-up drunk people in a sobering cell or drunk tank.

The amendments are about creating possibilities not creating duties, a spokesperson for the ministry said on Friday.

Head of the ministry's law enforcement and criminal policy department, Veiko Kommusaar, said at present speed cameras are installed mainly on state roads, so the aim of the measure is to give local communities a say on the matter and also to channel a portion of the fines into the budget of the respective municipality.

"That will give municipalities the possibility to cover the costs related to the acquisition and installation of speed cameras and contribute more to road safety," Kommusaar said.

He said that speeding is not as commonly condemned in society as drunk driving is.

"The misconception is widespread that exceeding the speed limit is acceptable within certain limits. Surveys demonstrate that reducing the average speed by just one kilometer per hour reduces the risk of having an accident by three percent.

"Judging by a survey on the effect of installation of speed cameras conducted in Estonia, the number of road accidents involving human injury decreased by 13 percent after the introduction of speed cameras. These facts demonstrate that speed cameras are one possibility for improving safety on the roads and we will involve municipalities in doing it," Kommusaar said.

In addition, the amendments will give municipalities wider powers in looking after public order.

"On the one hand, municipalities are obliged to exercise supervision over public order and some municipalities also have law enforcement officials. One the other hand, local officials do not have sufficient rights and often the police have to be brought in. At present, they can discipline people only by speaking to them," he said.

"When it comes to a person lying on the street, for instance, a municipality's law enforcement officer at present has no right to ascertain whether the person is drunk or is suffering from a health problem," Kommusaar said, adding that rules state the police or an ambulance has to be called in such an instance.

"In summary, solving a case like this will take an unreasonable amount of time and the resources of several institutions. In Tallinn, the police remove 400–600 people on average from the streets to sober up every month. In our view, the municipality could be authorized to step in and help in cases like this. In the case of Tallinn, for instance, this task could be performed by a law enforcement unit in the future," he said.

Kommusaar added that special training will definitely go hand-in-hand with broader rights.

"We will set out specific requirements in the law for persons wishing to become law enforcement officials. Broadly speaking, they would have to meet the requirements valid for assistance police officers," he said.

The Interior Ministry is currently asking other ministries and relevant institutions for opinions on the proposed amendments and expects the amendments, which are yet to be prepared as draft legislation, to take effect in the second half of 2020. 

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Editor: Helen Wright



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