BALLARAT police are using covert tactics to catch drivers doing the wrong thing on the city’s roads.
As part of Operation Surprise, members of Ballarat’s Highway Patrol dress in plain clothes and stand near bus stops or behind trees at some of Ballarat’s busiest intersections.
When the undercover police observe drivers not wearing seatbelts, using their phones or engaging in other illegal behaviour, they radio ahead to uniformed members who intercept the offending vehicle.
Operation Surprise is funded by the TAC as part of its ongoing campaign to tackle the road toll.
Ballarat Highway Patrol Senior Sergeant Pat Cleary said police would continue using undercover methods to put a stop to people doing the wrong thing.
“We make no apologies for using covert tactics or hiding or anything like that,” he said.
“At the end of the day, people shouldn’t be breaking the law so they won’t get pulled over.”
Senior Sergeant Cleary said more than 150 offences had already been detected as part of Operation Surprise over the past month.
He said drivers not wearing seatbelts or using mobile phones made up the biggest numbers, but other offences such as disqualified drivers and probationary drivers without P-plates have also been detected.
“Seatbelts have been around for a long time now and some people still choose not to wear them,” he said.
“Some have actually got their seatbelts tucked in behind them and they’re sitting on them so the noise on their dashboard doesn’t go off — you’d think if you went to the effort to do that, why wouldn’t you put the thing on?”
Senior Sergeant Cleary said the operation would become part of the regular police arsenal in their war on the road toll.
“Even when the TAC funding is over, we’ll maintain this type of operation around Ballarat,” he said.
“People need to be aware we could be anywhere — behind a tree, in a bus stop or standing on a corner.”
“A lot of the times they’ll make excuses, such as they just picked the phone up — but we’ve actually observed them texting,” Senior Sergeant Cleary said.
“We need people to understand that just picking a phone up or touching it in any way, is using the phone.”