A CALL to crack down on anti-social behaviour on Dartmoor has been answered after Dartmoor National Park Authority agreed to trial rangers wearing body cameras.
The national park authority rangers are to wear the cameras in a bid to deter anti-social behaviour at beauty spots like Bellever and Wistman’s Wood,
The two-year trial, which was agreed last Friday by the national park authority, will cost just over £8,000.
Rangers are to be issued with the devices in March and will trial them for 24 months, with a review after 18 months to determine whether they are really acting as a deterrent.
The news was given a cautious welcome by moorland farmer Alison Geen, who is also chair of Dartmoor Forest Parish Council.
She said the parish council had asked for rangers to be given the tools for enforcing when they were recently consulted over changes to the byelaws.
She said: ’Hopefully this might benefit the rangers as well as stop anti-social behaviour before it happens.
’The parish council responded to the byelaw consultation and one of the points they made was that if you put in byelaws then they need to be enforced.
’I can only imagine that this has come out of the consultation. I know there is a problem from speaking to rangers who have been threatened during their work. At the moment nothing has been taken further. It would seem that someone has listened to what we have said. I don’t see it as a positive step, in that we should all be nice to each other anyway without the need for this, but we need to make sure the byelaws are enforced.’
The camera, worn on rangers’ uniforms, will be switched on when rangers are attempting to move on people causing trouble in beauty spots on the moor.
The cameras will be used to enforce new byelaws which are aimed at preventing a repeat of scenes in the summer of 2020, with fly camping with littering, human waste and fires causing damage on both the moorland and wildlife.
On one night in July 2020, 70 tents were recorded at Bellever and there were 50 firepits along 500 metres of riverbank. Large amounts of debris, including broken bottles, plastic bottles and bags, disposable barbecues, wet wipes and used toilet paper had been left behind by revellers.
The new byelaws give the park authority the right to go to court for permission to break up gatherings such as raves, where evidence from the bodyworn cameras could be vital.
Ranger team manager Simon Lee said the cameras would also give the rangers confidence to confront people causing problems.
’Being a national park range means the working day is mostly spent out and about doing your best for the people who live, visit and work on Dartmoor,’ he said.
’In most situations people respond to us in a really positive way and appreciate what we’re doing. We’re grateful for the support of many but in recent years we’ve experienced an increase in anti-social behaviour when we’re just trying to do our job.
’Fortunately, these incidents are rare but even one is unacceptable. No one should have to deal with abuse or threats simply for doing their job.
’The use of bodyworn cameras gives us more confidence that we can deter acts of aggression and protect ourselves as we go about our duties.’