FLYTIPPERS and litter louts have been warned – Big Brother is watching you.
Council wardens in Wear Valley, County Durham, are to wear hi-tech body cameras in a bid to bring to book those guilty of anti-social behaviour.
They are believed to be the first council employees in the North to be fitted with the cameras, the size of a man’s thumb.
They will be placed on to the warden’s jacket to record audio and visual information on to a hard drive, worn as part of a belt.
The move comes just over three weeks after Durham Police launched a formal bid to the Home Office for cash to fund a further 20 mini-cameras for their officers, in addition to the 34 cameras the force presently operates.
Camera footage can be used as evidence in court to help secure a conviction as each image is electronically stamped with the date and time of when it was taken.
Wear Valley street warden supervisor Debbie Hibbitts said: “The cameras will only be worn when the wardens feel they are going into a situation were there may be a disturbance or where there may be evidence of fly-tipping.
“It’s all about improving the service the street wardens offer and giving them as much equipment as possible to enable them to do their jobs. They can wear them on their belts, on their ties or on their heads if they would prefer that. We are trying to reassure the public that we are taking as many measures as possible to tackle the issues that most concern them.
“But I would also like to point out that we don’t have major problems of anti-social behaviour in Wear Valley. And our wardens do have police radios so they can receive assistance if they feel a situation is getting out of hand.”
Wireless CCTV Ltd have supplied the camera which the wardens will share and trial across the district for a month.
Phil Shaw, anti-social behaviour co-ordinator for Wear Valley District Council, said: “We believe we are the first council in the North-East to use these cameras specifically for ASBOs.
“If the wardens receive a call to say there are gangs congregating in a certain area, they will wear the camera to better equip them when they arrive at the scene.
“They will only be used when the council’s 14 wardens suspect that anti-social behaviour such as nuisance, disorder, or fly-tipping, is taking place.”
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Fly-tippers caught in the act by hidden CCTV
SPY cameras are already being used by a North council to crack down on fly-tipping, but not attached to street wardens.
North Tyneside Council bought a set of covert mini CCTV cameras to catch illegal dumpers. The cameras, which cost £10,000, can be hidden at fly-tipping hotspots in bushes, trees, underground or even in bags of rubbish.
The rig, which comprises two cameras and a recording unit, contains sensors which detect movement, meaning they only record what is necessary. The rig is bugged with a tracking device allowing the cameras to be traced if stolen.
In 12 months up to April 2007, North Tyneside recorded 721 incidents of flytipping, costing the council £94,000 to clear up.
Yesterday a council spokesman said the cameras had enabled officers to trace a number of vehicles.
Councils and the Environment Agency reported 82,000 incidents in the North-East in 2005/6 – costing £6m to clean up.