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Big Brother recruits cameraphone users

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A UK firm today unveiled plans for a service that allows members of the public to send pictures of antisocial behaviour to local authorities using mobile phones.

Citizens are being encouraged to take mobile snaps of anti-social behaviour such as graffiti, abandoned cars and fly-tipping where it is possible to do so without endangering their safety.

The images should be sent to local Anti-Social Behaviour (ABS) units, newly formed groups of local representatives that work in association with the police and local councils.

The service from mobile imaging firm Youview will be launched on 1 August, and people will be able to text or MMS their picture and location details to a central number.

They will then receive a text reply telling them to go to a website where they will be given details of any action taken by their local ASB unit.

Although some critics have described the scheme as a mandate for turning members of the public into sneaks and snoopers, Fiona Brownsell, chief executive at Youview, said: "We can't have enough police on the street to monitor everything.

"I believe that communities will welcome the opportunity to report behaviour in this way; it is not about making people vigilantes."

Usage will be monitored to see whether it would be popular to allow anonymous submissions, and Brownsell said that the use in court of photos from mobile phones is being investigated.

She added that taking photos of graffiti could be of use because it would provide a record of 'tagging', the use of specific symbols by graffiti artists known to the police.

Brownsell admitted that it is currently difficult to get details on the ASB units active in specific areas. "They are in the process of being formed," she explained. "That information will be available later."

By Ken Young

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