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What’s our Council doing about dog mess in Bohemia?

Bohemias perennial problem  whats the council doing?

Bohemias perennial problem whats the council doing?

What is our Council actually doing about the dog mess in Bohemia? In March, the Voice was invited to spend some time with the Hastings Environmental Health department to try to find out. The meeting took place initially with Mike Hepworth, at Century House, Menzies Road. We were later joined by Colin Mee and Sue Dedman (see panel, below).

Trying to solve the issue of dog mess is an unenviable task, and the Voice’s overall impression was that the Dept of Environment Health is doing its level best to tackle this problem and we too can play our part [‘How can we help’, p 9].

There is however, an unexplained mystery: why are our streets reported as being clean when they’re not? [‘Clean streets mystery’, p 9]. Maybe a US-style ‘pooper scooper’ law is needed? [p 10].

Here are some of the questions raised and answers given by Mike, Colin and Sue:

FINES Voice: How effective are fines? Has anyone ever actually been fined the maximum £1,000?
No £1,000 fines; they’re usually around £100. Last week, someone was fined £100 plus our costs of £298 plus victim’s compensation of £15, all told £413. They will have to pay their solicitor’s costs maybe another £400. Since April last year we’ve actually had three prosecutions, compared with none for 2007/8, but we’ve handed out 76 fixed penalty notices – for £75 or £50. This compares with only 20 FPNs during the whole of 2007/8.

HOURS Do the enforcement teams go out at all hours?  Our teams do go out as early as 5am and can work up to 11pm. The bottom line is that we can’t be everywhere all the time, and so we need to be smart about where, when & how we work.  By “how” we mean things like working covertly.  Since last April, Sue and her colleagues have done a lot of ‘patrolling’ in plain clothes, because our experience is that offenders very rarely offend in front of a uniformed officer, they just wait until we’re gone.

CAMERAS Are cameras used? We have used night cameras in the past, but we have to be careful when using covert directed surveillance cameras.  The Surveillance Commissioners ‘police’ the way local authorities do this work. Cameras haven’t been used so far this year, but from April, ‘flexible timed cameras’ will be used and we’ll return on consecutive nights to catch dog foulers.

SURVEYS Are regular council surveys done to check on the state of our streets? To actually patrol all the streets in the borough on a regular basis would be a full-time job for several people and would divert our officers from dealing with known hotspots. It’s much more efficient for us to work from feedback from the street cleaners and from complaints from the public. Are independent surveys carried out? Yes, formal surveys are carried out three times a year by an independent company. [see ‘Clean streets mystery’, p 9]. Four years ago the proportion of ‘failed’ streets in Hastings was 23%; now it is 4%. We’re very pleased with this improvement.

DNA TESTING On the Isle of Man, DNA is used to test faeces to identify culprits. Has that been considered? We know that some places do use DNA testing, but for that to work here, we’d have to be able to refer to a DNA database of dogs in our area. Perhaps that could be a condition of a national dog licence scheme?

DOG LICENCES would dog licences help? It depends on the nature of the scheme and the sanctions for not having a licence. We suspect the problems are caused by a small minority and wonder if they would be phased by a licensing scheme.

STAFF How many staff do you actually have on the streets? There are four teams in Hastings.  The team covering Bohemia is Sue, Peter & Manoj [picture, below] . They respond to complaints about enviro-crime such as dog fouling, littering, overhanging vegetation, flytipping etc. We aim to become so good at this enforcement work, that we become a real deterrent to the anti-social few who are not cleaning up after their dogs.

HOW CAN WE HELP? How can Bohemia residents help you? To help us catch irresponsible dog owners, please call us on the Together Action line 08000 854 500 or email us anytime on together@hastings.gov.uk Sue Dedman tries to ensure that her team works in areas where enviro-crime is most prevalent, and when we have the best chance of catching offenders. Sue’s team does not try to patrol every single street, as that would waste time where there was no problem.  This is why it’s useful for us to receive information from local residents as it helps us to focus our activity in the most appropriate areas.

IT WORKS! The Voice alerted the  council to dog mess in Tower Road on Wed 15 April. We got a reply the same afternoon from Sue Dedman: “Thank you for the information re the dog fouling this morning, I sent my officers to do a check and they caught a male letting his dog foul and not clearing up and he was issued with a fixed penalty notice”.

 

COMMENT

Mick Goodger writes (Jul 2009)

Dear Sir, I refer to the item in May’s edition of the Village Voice about a fixed penalty notice being issued to a Tower Road ‘male letting his dog foul and not clearing up’. That ‘male’ was me! I feel a bit sore about it, even though technically I was in the wrong. I like to think of myself as a responsible dog owner.  When I take my dog for a walk, I always carry special dog-waste bags.

My own dog, Rossi, is a seven year old Weimaramer and he usually asks if he wants to go out. On this occasion, he went outside without me. I realise the council employee who issued my fine was only doing his job. It was very cut and dried, I had a straight choice: pay the £50 fine or go to court. I paid. The irony is that in Tower Road,  outside my shop, I often clear up after other people’s dogs. It seems very unfair that a responsible dog owner should have been fined like this.

Mick Goodger, Destination MX, Tower Road.

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