Body cameras for town hall staff being considered to clamp down on fly-tipping

Wigan Council may roll out body-worn technology to all enforcement staff for the first time to stamp out environmental crime.

Friday, 17th May 2019, 8:46 am
Updated Friday, 17th May 2019, 9:46 am
A bodycam

Cleaning up the borough has been flagged as a priority for residents in a recent major consultation exercise, bosses say.

Other news: This is why massive plumes of black smoke filled the sky over the boroughThe local authority chiefs first signalled their intention to bring in bodycams - for some employees who deal with fly-tipping, littering and dog fouling - as part of a pilot project in 2017. Now it could be used for all of them.

The move - which could be approved by the local authority’s cabinet by July - follows proposals for heavier fines for dog fouling and littering from cars.

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Environment service manager Sandra Green said the cameras will provide extra safety to frontline staff and also help capture evidence for prosecution.

She added: “The use of body-worn video will be integral in promoting public reassurance and will hopefully help modify behaviour. As well as protecting our staff it will be a useful tool to help keep members of the public safe.”

Earlier this year, the town hall revealed plans to double fines for dog fouling to £100 with public space protection orders also proposed.

Irresponsible owners who “lack respect” for their communities are costing the council £150,000 per year in clean-up costs, bosses said.

And last year the council said it would enforce new legislation for those who throw rubbish from vehicles. Fines for general littering have also been increased.

The new stricter approach is hoped to act as a deterrent to encourage “behaviour change” rather than as an “income generator”, the town hall has previously said.

Ms Green, interim service manager for environment, added: “We are seeking approval to use body-worn video for front line enforcement officers.

“As part of The Big Listening Project consultation one of the biggest issues that was highlighted by residents was littering in their local communities. Ensuring our streets are clean and tidy is a huge priority for us and we hope the body-worn video will contribute to this.”

More than half of UK town halls have kitted out staff with the equipment, spending just under £1.8m on thousands of devices, according to research by Big Brother Watch. The privacy campaign group said the use of the cameras to protect personnel from verbal or physical abuse may be valid, and they can be a useful tool for safety and transparency.

A Wigan Council spokeswoman said: “Given that privacy campaigns are opposed to their usage we have also made sure that we are taking our surveillance powers seriously and making sure that camera usage is proportionate and is there to not only enforce but to protect residents and staff.

“In addition, we have been looking at how footage is stored among other logistics, which have had to be tested prior to introducing the cameras. All of this back office work takes time and is in addition to other priority projects, so this has only just been brought back for consideration recently.”