Body cams to protect Perth and Kinross skip staff

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Body-worn cameras will be issued to frontline council staff after a surge in assaults.

The devices will be used by recycling centre workers as part of a 12-week trial, Perth and Kinross Council said.

In the last year, the rate of attacks on skip site crews has more than doubled to 13 from six throughout 2016, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. There were fewer than five recorded in the year before.

Council bosses say they hope the cameras will help curb the marked increase in violence and aggression from members of the public, while protecting staff from “unfounded complaints”.

It’s an about-turn for the local authority which said in October it would not follow the example of local authorities in Angus and Fife, which issued cameras to their recycling staff.

The vast majority of hostile incidents were recorded at recycling centres, the council said. The trial will be carried out at sites in Kinross and Crieff.

The cameras will only record when activated by staff. They have been instructed to use them if they believe an “inflammatory situation” is developing.

A council spokeswoman said: “Primarily it is hoped that the cameras will deter individuals from engaging in anti-social behaviour while also providing documented evidence of violence or aggression.”

She added: “The council takes the safety of its staff extremely seriously and operates a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to violent and abusive behaviour towards its employees.

“Not only has it been shown that the wearing of body cameras reduces assaults by a third, but it also proves essential to criminal proceedings.”

According to the Home Office, body-worn video evidence contributes towards saving up to 22 per cent of police time.

Police Scotland has also estimated that similar trial schemes in Aberdeen and Paisley saved more than £140,000 in court, police and prosecution costs.

The council has stressed that private impact assessments would be carried out on all footage, which would be destroyed within 28 days unless needed for evidence.

Conservative councillor Colin Stewart, environment, enterprise and infrastructure convener, said: “I am pleased that the environment service is taking the proactive step of trialling body cameras for its front line staff.

“I believe this technology will not only protect staff, but also help drive down unfounded complaints against employees and enable the council to gather better evidence for swifter justice.”

He added: “These cameras will protect members of staff and the public, discourage physical assaults and aggressive or abusive behaviour towards council staff and deter and detect crime and anti-social behaviour.

“They will also assist in the identification of offenders leading to their arrest and successful prosecution, while reducing employees’ fears of the potential for aggressive and violent behaviour towards them when carrying out their duties.”

The pilot scheme will be reviewed after 12 weeks and if successful, could be rolled out to environmental services across the region.

Council officers in Dundee and Fife confirmed there were no recorded assaults on recycling staff in their areas in the last three years.