Extra resources are being drafted in to help tackle littering and dog fouling across Mid and East Antrim - but not everything is going smoothly.
Footage has been widely shared on social media of a confrontation between a member of the public and litter enforcement staff in Ballymena town centre as they tried to fine a man for dropping a cigarette butt.
Police were eventually called to the scene.
The Guardian has sought a response from Mid and East Antrim Council.
Yesterday, the Council issued a press release confirming it had ‘teamed up’ with Waste Investigations Support & Enforcement (WISE) for a yearlong trial to help prosecute those who flout the rules.
The new Enforcement Officers will work in partnership with existing Council Officers and will be given powers to issue fixed penalty notices (FPN) to anyone failing to pick up after their dog or dropping litter in the street.
This environmental enforcement service will operate across the Borough and targeting those anti-social people who don’t dispose of their litter in a responsible way or fail to pick up after their dogs. The new team will work with the public to identify and target hot spot areas where these offences continue to happen.
Anyone observed failing to pick up after their dogs or dropping litter will be issued with an on the spot £80 Fixed Penalty Notice.
Failure to pay a Fixed Penalty Notice may result in prosecution being brought and a much higher fine being imposed by the Court as well as a potential criminal record.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr Peter Johnston said: “Dog fouling, littering and the dumping of waste across Mid and East Antrim is an important issue to our residents. Street litter and dog mess is a real frustration and cleaning up our public spaces is a priority for council.
“At the heart of this issue is a need to tackle that minority of people who still believe it is okay to just drop their rubbish wherever they fancy. It can’t just be about education or awareness-raising, nor can we afford to just throw more money into street cleaning, there has to be a realistic deterrent and we believe hitting these irresponsible people in the pocket is the way to go. Working with WISE and having new dedicated environmental enforcement officers out there seven days a week issuing on the spot fines to those who are caught in the act should soon get the message out there that we mean business. Dropping litter is anti-social behaviour and impacts on our environment. There is never an excuse to mess up our borough and I would think the majority of local people believe we are right to be targeting offenders in this way.”
The officers will also be encouraging residents to sign up to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Green Dog Walkers Scheme. Green Dog Walkers was set up in January 2018 by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council and its main aim is to change attitudes about dog fouling.
The Mayor added: “We would encourage people to sign up to the scheme and take the pledge and do your bit to keep our borough beautiful.”
WISE are a specialist supplier of environmental crime services to councils across the UK.
Managing Director John Dunne said: “We are pleased to be working in partnership with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. WISE deliver a wide range of environmental investigations and enforcement services on a national basis and have consequently contributed to a reduction in street litter and the associated cost of cleaning it up as a result of our efforts.
“Our aim is to reduce environmental crime for the long term and patrol the area in an ‘intelligence led’ manner using geo fencing technology and focusing our controls on identified hotspots received from the complaints and feedback of the general public.
“We will operate a robust but always proportionate methodology to tackle environmental crime, using a wide range of technical support including wireless body worn cameras and a handheld computer which will confirm the identity of an alleged offender before issuing a fixed penalty notice.
“Our officers have been instructed to communicate openly with the community with the overall aim of inclusivity for the Mid and East Antrim community to play their part in the task ahead.”
To find out more about the new partnership, or Green Dog Walkers scheme go to www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk