Litter louts who continue to blight the urban and rural landscapes around Omagh and may have escaped prosecution due to lack of evidence, now face a new enemy in the form of dash cams.
Over the coming weeks, the council will introduce the CCTV cameras into the vehicles of their litter enforcement officers in an effort to clamp down on those who continue to destroy the environment and cost ratepayers through the ongoing clean-up bills.
It is hoped the CCTV will act not only as a deterrent, but as key evidence in future prosecutions, as it emerged that almost half of the court cases brought by council officials against those suspected of littering were lost.
However, the council currently employs just two litter enforcement officers who have to cover the vast region of west Tyrone and Fermanagh.
It is understood that the council will invest around £400 on two cameras for the vehicles of the two enforcement officers.
Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, which spends around £2million of ratepayers money each year on keeping the region clean, says litter and rubbish remains a problem despite efforts to provide additonal bins and numerous recycling facilities.
But now those who drop cigarette butts, chewing gum and rubbish or those who fail to clean up after their dogs, could find themselves captured on the new cameras installed in the council vehicles.
And the result will be a hefty £75 fine.
A report put before the council’s Environmental Services Committee last week stated, “Enforcement Officers within Fermanagh and Omagh District Council prepared a total of 11 cases for court proceedings in 2015/16 in which five cases were lost as there was a lack of evidence due to sole reliance on the officer’s witness statement.
“The proposed introduction of vehicle dash cameras to the Enforcement Officers vehicles will provide images of offences to give irrefutable evidence. This will save time and the associated expenses in preparing cases for court and may also reduce the risk of aggressive behaviour from perpetrators once they are made aware that incontrovertible evidence exists.”
The council said the cameras will not only “provide better enforcement evidence” but will also “provide an additional deterrent to the littering, fly-tipping and dog fouling, so helping to reduce the cost of litter clearance and street cleansing.”
A Privacy Impact Assessment and Equality Screening Assessment have already been carried out by the council.
“Signs will be displayed on the enforcement vehicles informing members of the public images are being monitored and recorded for the purposes of the enforcement of The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.”
As part of this major new initiative, the council has also indentified a number of problem areas in the Omagh area. Referred to as ‘hotspots’ these are Knocknamoe Cottages, Killyclogher; Coolnagard Estate, Donnelly’s Holm/ Lover’s Retreat. In some rural areas, the council will also focus on lay-byes where rubbish is dumped, by cutting back vegetation and erecting new signs.
Responding to an Ulster Herald post on Facebook, several residents raised the issue of litter and dumping in a number of areas including the Greencastle Road and the Cappagh Church car park.