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Whistleblower: public misled on Islington’s dog squad

PUBLISHED: 06:50 24 August 2012

The Dog Squad on the beat in Highbury Fields

The Dog Squad on the beat in Highbury Fields

Dieter Perry

»A ‘whistleblower’ has claimed the public were misled about Islington Council’s controversial dog mess crackdown – saying officers spent their time targeting smokers instead of dog fouling.

A former member of the “dog squad” made the claim as he spoke out to criticise the way NSL, the firm contracted by the council, ran the project.

The 31-year-old, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of jeopardising future employment, alleged dog squad officers spent little time on fouling. Instead they were virtually “stalking” smokers to catch them out.

He said: “It was sold to the public wrong as the dog squad. When they noticed it was not making enough money, they focused on littering tickets. They started pushing for any sort of ticket.

Pressure

“We spent our time stalking people who were smoking cigarettes. We would watch and wait for people to drop their butts, which isn’t right – and we were filming them.

“I have seen colleagues chase behind people to issue tickets, go into shops after people and take them out – you can’t do that. I felt it was not right morally.”

The dog squad was brought in to catch owners who don’t clean up after their pets. The ex-employee contacted the Gazette this week following the completion of the three-month initiative.

He says the team was increasingly put under pressure to hand out more and more tickets to recoup costs as their target quickly rose to ten fines a day.

He says he didn’t hand out a single ticket for dog fouling and branded the scheme a failure.

Cllr Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “We think this has been fantastically successful in reducing dog mess.

“We will be looking at the results in detail in due course but we have lots of positive feedback from residents.

“This has been a great project and I’m surprised anyone would put much store in anonymous claims.”

A spokesman for NSL said: “The vast majority of people our officers met welcomed their presence and the service they provided.”

Claim

Last week the Gazette revealed just 26 fines for dog fouling were issued, worth £2,080 in all, despite the council’s original claim that it was likely to recoup much of its outlay on the project – £134,000 – in fines.

The council has not responded to questions about how many littering tickets were issued.

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