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Litter police might 'take a punch' when they begin patrolling in Medway next year, warns councillor

A councillor has warned an army of new litter police set to issue fines of up to £150 from next year might "take a punch" from angered members of the public.

The comments from Cllr Alex Paterson prompted Medway Council officers to insist the new "street enforcement team" would not need to wear stab vests when they begin patrolling Medway.

They could start patrolling the Towns’ streets as early as June 2019, with fines issued to those caught dropping rubbish or failing to clear up dog mess.

There are concerns litter enforcement teams might be in danger when they issue fines

Medway Council is set to get as little as 10% of any penalty charge notices because it will not pay the private company hired to carry out the litter policing for its services.

Initial documents suggested the fine could be £90 if paid with 10 days, and £150 thereafter.

But the involvement of non-Medway Council staff could exacerbate any confrontations between enforcement officers and members of the public, says Cllr Alex Paterson (Lab).

He said: “There is a perception that there is a private organisation which benefits from issuing the tickets, and I’m concerned about the additional safety risk that places on those doing the job.

Cllr Alex Paterson. Picture: Medway Council
Cllr Alex Paterson. Picture: Medway Council

"It’ll be remiss of this committee not to consider the possibilities that people might end up taking a punch from a troublesome individual.”

The Rochester West representative suggested officers were likely to patrol will-lit areas in public view as a result, rather than alleyways and other places where the issue of litter and dog-fouling is more apparent.

All officers will be equipped with body cameras, and will receive full training from the successful private company to help mitigate confrontation.

But environmental services manager Mark Lawson said other measures, such as stab vests, would not be necessary.

Litter along The Paddock near Clover Street in Chatham. Picture: John Westhrop
Litter along The Paddock near Clover Street in Chatham. Picture: John Westhrop

He told committee members on Thursday (December 6): “Whatever company that comes in will make their own risk assessments and provide them with kit because they will work for that company.

“If they see fit to issue them with stab vests, than that’s their issue – my personal preference has always been not to issue officers with stab vests.

“That’s because you’re dealing with a cigarette end, a crisp packet, or a drinks can – and it’s not something I expect you to get in a fight over.”

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