COMMUNITY safety bosses have unveiled a new weapon to crack down on people who persistently spoil the environment.

Darlington Borough Council’s leading members are set to approve the introduction of fines for numerous offences and increasing others from October 1 to send “a strong signal that environmental crimes will not be tolerated”. 

Fixed penalty notice fines are set to be introduced for offences including littering from vehicles, up to £400 for fly-tipping and up to £80 for ‘domestic waste receptacle offences’ – where residents fail to put rubbish in receptacles of a kind and number specified by the council.

Meanwhile, the maximum fine for littering, fly-posting, graffiti and the “unauthorised distribution of free literature on designated land” are set to rise from £75 to £150.

A report to the council’s cabinet states the fixed penalty notice fines have not changed in recent years and new legislation has enabled the council to issue them for a wider range of offences, such as fly tipping and littering from vehicles.

While individuals and organisations who commit environmental crime can be prosecuted through the courts, the council has the option to issue fines as a way of dealing with offences.

The fines will be issued by the council’s new Community Safety Unit’s 14 officer Civic Enforcement Team, which will cover the borough 14 hours a day, seven days a week. Children under 14 will not be issued with fines, but their parents will be informed of their offences.

The team has been granted powers usually reserved for police officers, meaning they can prosecute cases of environmental crime, parking and anti-social behaviour.

The authority’s community safety portfolio holder Councillor Jonathan Dulston said the council was determined to improve the environment and enable people to feel safe. 

He said: “With the launch of the community safety team, we are in a stronger position than ever before. But there remains a small number of people who don’t want to engage and increasing the fines will send out a strong message that there is now another tool to strengthen enforcement.

“We don’t have any targets about how many fines and this is not about fining large numbers of people. It is a pro-active response to the issues our communities have raised. Community safety is the fundamental thing that we as a council need to get right. There is no point in looking at economic strategy for the town centre for example if people don’t feel safe going there.”