Community Wardens hope to more effectively combat anti-social behavour in the Sudbury area with the adoption of a new body-worn camera policy.
Sudbury Town Council enacted the policy to support its wardens when dealing with aggressive behaviour, with offenders warned that video evidence could be used to prosecute them.
Warden team supervisor Bradley Smith emphasised the move should not be seen as “walking CCTV posts” and that they would only record if people were acting in an abusive manner.
He explained that in the past, wardens have suffered abuse while manning road closures and public events – but when they trialed the cameras at the Sudbury Fun Run last month, they noticed a significant decrease in the level of bad behaviour.
“We do not encourage our staff to film at all times – they only film if they need to film,” Mr Smith told the Free Press.
“If someone is on camera, they don’t play up, because the camera never lies.
“I think it’s a positive step forward towards what we all want. Everyone says they want to live in a clean society.
“If we see someone littering and they are abusive towards us, we have got to up our ante if we want to reach our goal of living in a litter-free society.”
The introduction of the body cameras has been welcomed by Suffolk Police and Babergh District Council, which both believe it will make a big difference to the confidence of wardens, by preventing anti-social individuals from dismissing their description of events.
Danny Cooper, local policing inspector for Sudbury, said: “We already work closely with the community wardens and other partners in Sudbury, so I am really supportive of this plan.
“Given some of the other priorities that police officers are working on, this scheme will ensure that all issues will continue to receive attention and we will support the wardens when required.
“Police officers have recently been issued with body worn video cameras and although still new, the initial feedback has been really positive around securing evidence and encouraging people to behave appropriately.
“Footage also clearly shows the impact that some behaviour can have, which is sometimes difficult to describe in a traditional, written statement.”
The team of wardens also plans to increase the number of patrols in the town and the surrounding parishes of Lavenham, Great Waldingfield, Great Cornard and Chilton.
The body cameras are similar to those employed by Suffolk Police, with recordings stored in a digital evidence management system, for potential use in cases of prosecutable offences.
The Community Wardens team currently has four body cameras in use, and hopes to soon increase this to six, subject to the approval of funding.
Sudbury town clerk Jacqui Howells said: “The new body worn cameras will assist town council staff in encouraging people to be proud of the community and be aware of their environment.
“Littering in our towns and countryside is an increasing problem and we need to get tougher on repeat offenders.
“The cameras will also be effective when our staff receive abuse for managing road closures during town events and other emergency situations.”