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Traffic wardens could be given body worn cameras to protect from abuse, Norfolk council says

PUBLISHED: 16:21 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:28 17 July 2019

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has given the go-ahead to proposals which will see council workers wear body cameras to protect themselves from abuse. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has given the go-ahead to proposals which will see council workers wear body cameras to protect themselves from abuse. Picture: Nick Butcher.

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Council workers who face abuse from the public could be given video cameras for protection if a Norfolk authority's plans are approved.

A traffic warden handing out a parking ticket. Picture:  Anthony KellyA traffic warden handing out a parking ticket. Picture: Anthony Kelly

Traffic wardens, planning enforcement officers, environmental rangers and housing caretakers are among the officers at Great Yarmouth Borough Council who would be provided with the technology.

The proposal will be aired next Tuesday (July 23) at a meeting of the council's policy and resources committee, where a report recommends the introduction of body-worn cameras as "an additional form of protection against potential harm from working alone and/or anti-social behaviour and abuse".

The scheme would cost the council an initial £20,000, with cameras worn by 34 frontline staff.

Carl Smith, leader of the council, said: "The primary aim of the cameras is to serve as a deterrent to potential acts of aggression, helping to ensure the health and safety of those employees who occasionally suffer verbal or sometimes physical abuse."

A 'fly-tipper' in action in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adam ScoreyA 'fly-tipper' in action in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Adam Scorey

Incidents against council staff range from verbal abuse of officers up to pushing and shoving, the council said.

Footage would be stored at a CCTV control centre managed by the Borough Council of West Norfolk and King's Lynn which already uses the cameras.

Cllr Graham Plant, the committee's vice-chairman, said: "I'm in favour of it if it protects workers from aggression."

Cllr Colleen Walker, who also sits on the committee, said: "I can't see a problem with putting cameras for safety on officers, who are on the front line, dealing with the public.

Councillor Carl Smith, deputy leader of Great Yarmouth Borogh Council. Picture: Ella WilkinsonCouncillor Carl Smith, deputy leader of Great Yarmouth Borogh Council. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

"If you take carpark attendants, I would imagine sometimes it could get quite fraught," she added.

More than half of local authorities across the UK equip members of staff with body-worn cameras.

A civil liberties group has expressed concern about footage being used as evidence in allegations of fly-tipping and parking violations.

Big Brother Watch said: "Using body worn cameras to protect people's safety is one thing, but widespread filming of people's behaviour in order to issue fines is simply not proportionate."

The total budget for the cameras is £21,615 with an ongoing annual budget of £4,374.

Norfolk Police started wearing such cameras two years ago.

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The Borough Council of King's Lynn and West Norfolk is the only local authority in the county providing staff with body-worn cameras.

Both North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) and Hellesdon Parish Council are considering their use.

A spokesperson for NNDC said the council has purchased such equipment but not yet used it.

"This is to be used for gathering evidence in matters that officers are investigating, and not for safety purposes," the council said.

"It is not anticipated that body-worn cameras will be used as a measure to protect staff but it may be useful in certain circumstances to provide evidence of character, or indeed violence or aggression shown towards officers whilst they are carrying out their statutory duties."

A spokesperson for Norwich City Council said City Hall does not currently use the cameras but could consider it in the future.

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