Questions raised over effectiveness of CCTV in tackling fly-tipping

Committee meeting hears that only one “positive identification” has been made through a new website that shares CCTV footage of fly-tippers caught on camera, reports Grace Howarth, Local Democracy Reporter

Fly-tipping in Enfield Highway and (inset) CCTV used to catch offenders
Fly-tipping in Enfield Highway and (inset) CCTV used to catch offenders

Councillors have questioned Enfield Council’s use of CCTV amid its continued struggle to control fly-tipping in the borough.

Labour and Conservative councillors shared concerns over the rising fly-tipping issue at an overview and scrutiny committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday 6th). 

Esther Hughes, the council’s head of service for consumer protection and waste protection, presented the latest data. 

She explained that since last April CCTV had been installed at 29 different locations and that 13 re-deployable cameras, which can be moved from one area to another, were in use.

As a result, nine vehicles involved in fly-tipping are subject to ongoing investigations.

She said the council was working to publish a CCTV location map on its website to show monitored sites; these include cameras in Arnos Grove, Haselbury, Palmers Green and Upper Edmonton wards.

Esther explained the council’s new ‘Can You Help’ webpage, where CCTV footage is uploaded, had received “positive feedback” from the public as the council was seen to have taken a proactive step.

The page launched last May and to date 24 fly-tipping incidents have been published, but with only one positive identification made and fine paid. Esther said the webpage was being promoted on social media and via leaflets posted to residents within a 200-metre radius of the CCTV cameras.

Conservative committee member James Hockney asked for an update on the Labour administration’s pledge to install 200 fly-tip cameras in its 2022 local election manifesto. 

Doug Wilkinson, director of environment and street scenes, said they were monitoring the “effectiveness” of CCTV cameras as they had only had “one positive identification” with the 29 in place and 13 re-deployed.

He said: “It would be foolish to just launch into purchasing huge numbers of CCTV cameras if they are not producing the outcomes we are trying to achieve.”

Doug added that although the organisation’s “financial pressures” had “limited” what they could do “to some degree”, the team was learning cameras were not “the answer to everything”. He said making an identification was “incredibly hard even when you’ve got footage”.  

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Providing context, Esther and Doug said identifying and tracing a vehicle was easier than a person because you could track a licence plate, but with a person it often wasn’t clear which property they had come from. 

Both officers stressed CCTV camera deployment and utilisation generally was being monitored on a “trial and error” basis. 

Labour committee member Nawshad Ali asked whether the ‘Can You Help’ leaflets being delivered around hotspot areas with cameras were going to be translated.

According to the council, as of 2021, over 178 languages and dialects are spoken in the borough. 

Doug said they could “speak with the local ward councillors” in areas with  cameras or where one was due to be put and get “additional intelligence” around whether the area was “predominantly English speaking or not”. 

He said if there was another language more commonly spoken, they “could get leaflets translated” and added: “Anything that helps us deal with fly-tipping is worth a try, even if it’s only on a small scale.”

Cllr Hockney said in 2021/22 the council “bought seven cameras for £25,000”, and in 2022/23 “decided to hire six cameras at the cost of £50,000” but that these cameras were later removed. He asked whether officers would concede this was a “mistake” in terms of wasting finances.

Doug disagreed saying the “technology” and “reliability” of some of the cameras wasn’t “fit for purpose” for what the council was trying to do.

He said: “Had we bought them outright we would have been left with products that weren’t fit for purpose; whilst on paper it may feel a waste of money, actually it was money well spent because we tested the products against the demands of what we wanted from them.”

Labour’s stand-in committee chair Mahmut Aksanoglu reiterated the long-standing issue of “recovering” fines for fixed penalty notices (FPNs). According to data presented in the meeting, between April and November 2023, 6,564 FPNs were issued, 2,680 were paid, 342 cancelled  and 2,819 were outstanding. 

Doug said the outstanding notices were not “written off” and the team continued to seek “payment or prosecution”.

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