May 18, 2009
They are given information packs about how to collect evidence, including tips about writing down numberplates, which could later be used in criminal prosecutions.
Luton Borough Council's Street Seen scheme encourages its 650 volunteers to report 'environmental concerns'. It is also recruiting 'Junior Street Champions', aged between seven and 11.
Primary schools could also be involved within two years.
Similarly, Islington Council in north London has recruited 1,200 'Islington Eyes' to report crime hotspots, fly-tipping and excess noise from DIY.
Volunteers are given a list of things to do when confronted with fly-tippers, including taking photos 'without being seen'.
Last year the council undertook a recruitment drive for youngsters aged nine and above, called Junior Eyes.
Children are given special books to write down reports on littering or graffiti in their schools, which they then send to the council.
A spokesman for Islington town hall said: 'It's not possible for the council to see what's going on in the borough at all times, so our Eyes for Islington are a great help, reporting issues such as dangerous footpaths, fly-tipping and graffiti.'
Welwyn Hatfield Council in Hertfordshire has given its 13 volunteers handheld computers to take photographs of problem areas.
The information is then uploaded to a map of trouble spots.
Overall, a total of 8,442 volunteers have signed up at 17 councils in England. Other councils are set to follow their example and set up their own networks of volunteers.
They say the scheme helps them find out about problems which they might not know about otherwise. But critics are worried the schemes could easily be abused and encourage a 'Big Brother society'.
The move comes as local authorities dish out £100 fines to householders who leave out too much rubbish or fail to follow recycling rules.
Now I have even more incentive to stay away from my nieces and nephews.
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