SALFORD, England, May 23 (Reuters) - Traffic wardens began patrolling the streets of Salford on Wednesday with tiny video cameras clipped to the sides of their heads in a bid to crack down on parking and littering offences.
This is the first time these cigar-shaped devices, which cost 700 pounds each, are being tested by Britain’s leading car parks operator, NCP Services. Previously, wardens in Salford used digital still cameras to collect photographic evidence.
Human rights group Liberty has called Britain the most spied-on county in the world, with approximately 4.2 million closed-circuit cameras or one for every 14 people. However, NCP says the cameras will serve a useful purpose.
“When you are accusing someone of dropping litter, you need to have evidence - most people when confronted, would deny everything, and a head-mounted camera is an efficient evidence-gathering tool,” said Tim Cowen, a spokesman for NCP Services.
The cameras would also prevent frustrated offenders from assaulting the wardens.
“A minority of people think that parking attendants are a legitimate target - they suffer routine verbal abuse and are spat on,” he said. “The fact that they are being filmed on camera would be a deterrent,” he added.
NCP bought six cameras for trial use in Salford, near Manchester, over the next several weeks. If the trial is successful, the programme will be rolled out across Britain.
Each camera is fastened to the side of the traffic warden’s cap. Powered by rechargeable batteries, it records images continuously over a warden’s seven-hour shift. The images are downloaded into a computer when they return to the office.
“In the past, still cameras were able to capture a picture of an illegally parked car, but there is a more complex job of enforcement when it comes to littering, and the video camera is able to capture the act being carried out,” Cowen said.