Robin Hood still evades The Sheriff

2010-09-19 15:29

He has a crowd of incensed cops on his tail but Cliff “PigSpotter” is astonishingly easy to track down.

“Obviously, having a couple thousand police officers after you is a little nerve- wracking,” the self-appointed Robin Hood of South ­Africa’s roads told City Press in an email interview.

“But I am certain that if they do find me and want to arrest me that not much can be done of these ‘obstruction of justice’ threats.”

Cliff (his surname and the rest of his identity is unknown but he calls himself PigSpotter) quietly used his Twitter profile in recent weeks to warn people about the locations of speed traps and roadblocks.

But this past week he has suddenly become famous.

His activities were reported in the newspapers and a few thousand people began following his tips on Twitter.

Then the Johannesburg Metro Police announced that they were going to slap him with an “obstruction of justice” charge.

The fact that he uses terms containing the word “pig” on his Twitter profile to refer to the police has not endeared him to the long arm of the law.

“Three little P.I.G pulling off randomly Christian De Wet Road close to Clearwater Mall,” he warned, for ­example, on Friday.

A little later he tweeted: “There is a HUGE mama that loves hiding behind bushes/walls with a blue golf on Langerman Ave, Kensington.”

According to the fans of PigSpotter’s Twitter profile P.I.G refers to “police in Gauteng”.

When City Press phoned Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar he did not sound amused. He did not laugh.

“We are working on information,” was all he would say.

What makes one wonder about PigSpotter is where he gets his information from. On Thursday, in the course of an hour, he revealed the presence of speed traps on the N14 near Krugersdorp, the R21 north of Johannesburg, William Nicol near Sandton and the Delmas road.

He says he gets the information from people who follow his tweets.

“As my followers increased so did the requests for me to cover roadblocks as ladies, especially after hours, were being pulled over and victimised into giving them bribes,” he said.

“This kind of corruption happens on a daily basis and instead of doing good the cops are merely soliciting monies from innocent ­civilians.”

Is he legal or not?
Are PigSpotter’s activities, warning people against police speed traps, legal?

He thinks they are.

He says if the police want to prosecute him “they would need to prove that due to my tweeting a specific roadblock that I aided a specific criminal and that he then took a detour that he otherwise wouldn’t have taken.”

He says he tweets “in ­general to whoever wanted to hear about speed traps and roadblocks”.

He’s not “supplying information to a specific criminal or organisation”, he says.

PigSpotter alleges he wants to help people avoid illegal speed traps but what does he understand the difference between a legal and an illegal speed trap to be?

“The police have to be seen, you have to know you are being trapped,” he says.

“The trap has to be no further than 120m from a sign indicating the speed limit with the little camera picture ­beneath it.” But not everyone agrees with him.

“If one supplies warnings about roadblocks where police check peoples’ licences or arrest drunken drivers you can make yourself guilty of an offence because you influence the exercising of the law,” says Automobile Association spokesperson Gary Ronald.

Ronald says it should not be illegal to warn people about permanent speed traps because warnings help people to reduce speed and obey the law.

But there is uncertainty about the practice of warning people about temporary speed traps.

“If you flash your lights to warn motorists against constables waiting on the road you can be prosecuted. (What Pigspotter does) is essentially the same thing. He can be charged,” says Ronald.

Something bigger
PigSpotter’s 14 000 fans may seem a lot but this is nothing compared to the following of the ­internet’s most successful speed trap warning system, Trapster.

Trapster has about one?million followers but the company that owns it says the number could be as high as four?million.

Trapster supplies worldwide information about speed traps and red-light cameras.

On Friday, for ­example, it would have warned you about a speed trap on the Boulevard Marie in Boucherville, ­Quebec, and a red-light camera on Al-Jahra in ­Kuwait City.



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