COMMENT: Put this new technology to proper use

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Ever more watchful CCTV cameras have become a permanent feature of life in Edinburgh. The aim is to make Scotland’s capital a safer city.

Now the city council is planning to invest in a £1 million upgrade of the CCTV system to make it digital. Among mooted advantages, this will enable facial and number plate recognition as well as ability to take mobile units to antisocial behaviour hotspots.

It’s a proposal we broadly welcome. The secret of effective and efficient policing in today’s world is technology. And an upgrade of the city’s CCTV system is well worth the money if it helps a cash-strapped police force to deal with antisocial behaviour.

But it has to be more than yet another means to boost council revenues through indiscriminate fines for parking offences.

Among the biggest banes in city life at present are dog fouling and littering. These generate a large volume of complaints and demands for action.

That does not at all mean that the city council should bear sole responsibility for the mess that scars our parks and litters our streets. Nor should it take up ever more time of the police in extensive, sustained and time-consuming patrols.

It is the general public that must bear the prime responsibility. And that in turn requires continual reminding of the costs and penalties involved for those who flaunt the rules.

Encouraging this wider responsibility requires tougher action against offenders. And here a sophisticated CCTV system can be an effective tool in catching persistent offenders.

Until now CCTV has only been deployed following repeated complaints about dog mess left in areas covered by existing cameras. And since 2013 just six fixed penalty notices (FPNs) have been issued with the help of CCTV – three in Moredun and three in Dumbiedykes.

Figures obtained by the Evening News last year showed the number of on-the-spot £80 fines for dropping rubbish has plummeted to just over a third of the 2013-14 level. And each of the Capital’s wardens is handing out only one fixed penalty notice (FPN) for dog fouling every six months.

Clearly we need a more efficient and effective CCTV system. But better technology is nothing without determination and drive to bring offenders to book.