Cameras to catch racist thugs in shops

Inspector Mark Rennie holds a miniature body cam outside Drylaw Police station. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Inspector Mark Rennie holds a miniature body cam outside Drylaw Police station. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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MINI “body cams” are being issued to shopkeepers in the Capital in a bid to catch racist thugs who abuse them in their stores.

The tiny cameras, which are being issued by police, also include a microphone and can be worn by shop staff and security guards who fall victim to racial attacks.

Police will use the footage to track down the yobs before it is passed to the courts as evidence for prosecutions.

And officers hope the inch-long devices will have a deterrent effect and help drive down hate crimes in shops.

It is the first time such cameras have been deployed in Edinburgh, with a pilot scheme now launched in the north of the city. If the £75 cameras prove successful, the new approach will be rolled out across the Capital.

Seventeen cameras, which can record incidents at the touch of a button, have been bought by Police Scotland for distribution to shop staff.

Inspector Mark Rennie, of Drylaw police station said: “We often find store security guards and shop staff receive racist abuse when they challenge shoplifters or refuse purchases.

“It’s totally unwarranted and unacceptable, and these cameras are intended to provide reassurance to staff who have experienced such an incident, by offering a deterrent and helping to assist police collect evidence to identify offenders.

“In north Edinburgh, 30 to 40 per cent of hate crime involves shops and businesses so it’s a significant issue for us. Anything we can do to reassure people and give extra security and confidence is welcomed.”

Insp Rennie said that the body cams were not a response to a rising problem in the area. New figures showed that hate crime fell by 27 per cent in north Edinburgh between April and the end of July, dropping from 135 crimes for the same period last year to 117.

But racist incidents reported to the police in Edinburgh soared by 20 per cent in a year, according to figures released in December, rising from 844 in 2010-11 to 1017 in 2011-12.

The metal cased cameras are about the same size as a USB drive, and can be attached to clothes or worn round the neck. They can also sit on a stand on a store counter.

Insp Rennie said: “The advantage is that they are mobile so they can be taken anywhere in a shop rather than relying on CCTV in a fixed location. They are very good quality and robust devices.

“Shopkeepers who report a particular problem with hate crime will be offered the cameras following a security review of their premises.

“If they prove to be successful then I’m sure shopkeepers themselves may invest in their own body cameras to add to their existing security arrangements.”

Foysol Choudhury, chairman of Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council, said: “We welcome the initiative of Police Scotland of making small body cameras available, which will help safeguard and protect persons vulnerable to hate crimes. We also believe that it would make local business owners and employees confident to conduct their business as well as report instances of hate crime.

“As a lot of people are not aware of processes about reporting hate crimes, the body cameras will make them confident about garnering evidence of such crimes. We hope that this step will increase rates of reporting of hate crimes.”