Citizen surveillance videos of litter louts

A neighborhood group in the UK has been videotaping people who litter and posting the videos on YouTube with a request for information about the "litter louts." My favorite part of these videos is where they repeat the act of littering in slow motion. (I think the videos need an ominous music soundtrack, however, like the kind used for the Diff'rent Strokes opener.) (Via Arbroath)


  1. So many weird things here.

    -When did they start filming this guy? Did he have the look of a litterer? Do they just roll camera on the area all the time? It’s clearly not a mounted camera.

    -He looks around, nervous he’s being watched. And he is!

    -What are they going to do when/if they find him? Do they still put people in the stocks over in Merrie Olde Englande?


  2. I was more concerned by the visual pollution of this douchebag’s fashion sense. Purple tie and a vest, what is this the 80’s?

  3. The fact is that people SHOULD feel ashamed to litter. The anti-littering programs of my youth were pretty effective (at least with me) and the very thought of littering still fills me with shame.

  4. How about, instead of pretending to be Mr. Spy, you just tap the person on the shoulder and ask them to pick up their trash? It makes a much bigger impression when you’re polite – what ever happened to famed English courtesy?

  5. Help me here…

    Surveillance by the government is evil.

    Surveillance by the people is evil? or good?

  6. I always thought the term “litterbug” was far too cutesy to describe someone who leaves a trail of garbage in their wake.

    How about “filthmonger?”

  7. @Blurple:
    I’m not sure how I feel about this myself. But I see that one difference between this project and government spy cams is that these videos are posted on the Internet, meaning everybody knows who the St Peters block watch is spying on, and how they are doing it. (Assuming, of course, that they’re not keeping some stuff under wraps.)

    A completely open and transparent spy is much less threatening than a clandestine one.

  8. This is weird. As well as being Britain’s foremost (OK, only) historian of CCTV, I’m also a guy who lives 200 metres from where this clip was shot. I’ve been involved with the Highfields Centre for years, and spent many an hour at it (my son used to do football training there) and I HATE LITTER LOUTS. Some sod treating my neighbourhood (or indeed my front garden) like a rubbish tip really winds me up.

    Why not tap them on the shoulder? Well, there’s a good enough chance that they might decide to punch me in the face. This neighbourhood is a bit of a social dumping ground, so there are rather a lot of bail hostel inmates, people with drink and drug problems, and people with mental health problems. 90% of these people are (just like the rest of the neighbourhood) also fine, and don’t drop litter either. But I have no intention of risking a kicking by turning up one of the 10%. Got a job to do, kids to look after, etc.

    Things I do challenge people about: hurting others in public; letting their dogs crap on the pavement and not clearing it up; driving over pedestrian crossings.

    Yes, I know it would be great to live in a lovely community composed entirely of rational and mature people who could all talk it over and work out compromises. Only I don’t, yet.

    Chris Williams

  9. One time this kid walking ahead of me tossed their empty pack of cigarettes on the ground. I picked it up, ran up to them and said “Excuse me, but you dropped your cigarettes” — pretending to be a nice guy…. but really, I’m a litter lout buster

  10. If only there was some way of tracking this offender, like perhaps if he arrived in a vehicle that could be identified. Maybe in the future, it would be possible to put some sort of “plate” on the vehicle, which would be serially numbered in some fashion, or perhaps equipped with some sort of alphanumeric identification so there would be more permutations. And then in order to operate this vehicle, this “plate” would have to be “licensed,” such that it could be tied back to some sort of owner or operator in this fashion.

    If given enough time, this “plate license” idea could catch on, and possibly become universal, striking fear in the hearts of litterbugs all over the UK. That should stop the problem cold.

  11. #20 @Chris Williams
    “Why not tap them on the shoulder? Well, there’s a good enough chance that they might decide to punch me in the face.”

    Ah yes, FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR FEAR. I’ve heard that one before, you should really try something else. I live in the South Bronx – I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more real danger here than there is in Leicester. If I see somebody dropping litter, I either do what #21 does, or I ask them to please not do it again. So far, it’s worked every time.

    Also: do you REALLY think the purple-tie-and-black-vested fellow in the vid is going to punch you?

  12. What the hell is that idiot doing in the first few seconds? Has he got some hardcore gabber going in that car? He’s an abashed clubber. He’s off his tits on ecstasy.
    I don’t like it when people drop trash in my yard. It happens all the time because there’s a ‘petrol’ station down the street. If I see someone doing it, I will run out and beat them with the flat of a machete. I never see it happen though.
    If I see someone do that on the street I yell ‘hey you fucker. yes you. pick that up you dirty fuckstick.’
    They either flip the bird and then run as fast as they can, or they pick it up.

  13. Phil, my life is certainly not ruled by fear. I’ve gone through periods when I have been very in-your-face about people’s engineering, and got away with it, and that’s been a good thing. Maybe it’s because I’m getting on a bit (but have yet to turn into a proper angry curmudgeon) that I can’t be arsed any more.

  14. I wish someone who would do this for people who
    don’t pick up after their dogs. Both people I’ve
    asked to pick up after their dogs have been defiant
    in refusing. I wanted to clobber one of them but
    a woman I know who I didn’t want to get in a fight
    in front of was a block ahead of us. It would have
    been so much fun to rub his face in it and smack
    him with a rolled up newspaper.

  15. Worst of all, I’ve seen more than one person drop trash on the ground WHILE STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO A TRASH CAN!!! Seriously, what the fuck?

  16. These people don’t deserve the courtesy of asking them politely. Anyway, they’ve been asked politely hundreds of times throughout their lives and they haven’t stopped.

    But putting their faces on the Internet does at least one of the following:

    Makes me feel better.

    Shames them publicly.

    (I admit that the latter is highly unlikely, but at least it’s a possibility, and one that I like.)

    [Meanwhile it’s taking forever to reset the password that I forgot like an idiot, so I’m posting this now as anonymous.]

  17. Mitch, That was some nice poetry. At least I assume so. I suppose you could be just a little weird about your lines ending in roughly the same place.

  18. #27 Scofflaws, such as the no-neck you encountered
    can be countermanded but it takes some persistance
    on your part.This particular breed of troglodyte always follow a pattern.They more often than not follow the same route.Their home base will be generally within walking distance of fecal dump site.As a rule as soon as their pooch has pooped they will go directly to home base.Being creatures of habit,they generally walk their route at the same time of day.So be in the general area at the same time and location for a few days,then follow the jerk to his point of origin.Collect an assortment of canine crap and put in his mail box or doorstep.With a little digging you may be able to accertain his mailing address,then you could use the mailing service.
    You are not liable to summons if apprehended,since
    you can point out that you are simply returning to
    the owner lost property. Good Luck,keep your head down!

    1. how about cameras over public toilets so the no-flushers can be shamed?

      In California, it’s the flushers who’d get the shaming.

  19. Oh jesus. I understand it. I don’t like people littering either, but seriously I like the idea of people poking video cameras out of their windows just in case someone might litter soon a whole lot more scary than some douchebag who throws a coke bottle somewhere.

    Why is it that everything I ever hear about London makes me hate it even more?

  20. In California, it’s the flushers who’d get the shaming.

    Well, depending. Working in your run-of-the-mill corporate office suite, there are circumstances where flushing is obviously required–if not out of common courtesy then certainly for public safety.

    And as long as we’re here, here’s an ethical quandary I face a few times a week: Is using a stall for the handicapped not as bad, equal or worse than parking your car in a handicapped space?

  21. @grimc,

    no, provided certain conditions are met: if every other stall is full, in a normal ladies’ line the last one filled should be the wheelchair stall — as long as the line exists, the person in the wheelchair will not wait longer (and depending on location, etc, may very well wait less) than everyone else, and isn’t that the best case scenario?

    O, but if you are male, where there seem to be no lineups, you might be delaying your fellow man a minute or two! The horror! Wheelchair bathroom stalls are a somewhat scarce resource, true, but not so scarce as to disallow use by the non-disabled in all circumstance.

    Question: Why do people in wheelchairs (not crutches, I get that) need a closer parking spot? Bigger yes, closer not so significant I would think. Probably parking lots are splitting the difference to have as few spots as possible.

  22. I;m not convinced, i mean i dont see the coke bottle anywhere, he might just done a magic trick, you know people should find him for that i want to hire him on my birthday party

  23. OK, I’ve now checked out the organisation behind it, and decided that it’s, on balance, a Bad Thing. It’s not being done by a bunch of residents sticking a camera out of the window, but by a government-funded body: a group of residents paid to help manage a council estate (US: housing project). I’ve never lived in this particular one, but I have lived in the equally scuzzy one on the other side of the A47 so I know how these things work. There’s very little scope for accountability of what is after all secret surveillance.

    There are three ways the camera can point:
    1. down: us to them
    2. along: us to us
    3. up: us to them

    I thought this might be (2) but actually it’s (1). Given the power and latency of the state, we need less of (1) and more of (3). Hip young fast-running twentysomethings in their edgy urban paradises probably have less desire for (2) than fortysomethings raising kids in an place, but I have a soft spot for it. YMMV. Look out for the ‘Shithead adults riding their bicycles on the pavement’ channel which I plan to start Real Soon Now.

  24. I’m in the USA. Being one that daily having to pick up people’s litter from the street and sidewalks around my home and the trash from my yard so I have a decent place to live instead of a trash can. I have no problem with anyone who wants to identify the litterers anywhere. From my view, it is my “rights” that are being stomped on. You know, I feel I have a “right” to live in a decent place.
    I’ll add, that you would not believe the hassles I have gotten from people for simply keeping my yard clean of cast off paper and fast food containers and cigarette filters,pizza crusts and soft drink containers, condoms and diapers too. I have to say that society seems to be in decline here in the USA.
    Freedon is more and more taking a turn in meaning…as free to be a bother to all around rather than being free from bother. It gets worse each year. It’s a low class act that is totally self centered. In the video- to be concerned with someone seeing him rather than being concerned with the result of his action on the property owners and neighborhood. That’s what I mean.

  25. @toxonix – Ha, I laughed my ass off.

    Surely, if they can twitch curtains and point cameras, they can point sniper rifles? Who’s gonna pick up the corpses tho? Just a case of the solution causing yet another problem.

  26. @itsumishi – it’s Leicester not London.

    @Chris Williams – please release said adult cyclists on pavement cam in Brighton, UK too. The *only* time I see a cyclist on the road is during critical mass

    I am a little concerned however that it’s not verging on racism. I know that Leicester has a very high count of non-whites having lived there for 4 years (being white there makes you the minority) but everyone in those videos pretty much is either Indian Asian or Afro-Carribean :-/ As it’s done by community locals paid by the government I wonder how much vetting is done beforehand..?

  27. Anon, to be fair, in St Peter’s, about 95%+ of the faces are non-white. That aspect of the video really isn’t a problem.

  28. In the hall where I work there are large potted plants. People litter in them. I’ve even seen gum wrapped in a leaf from the plant thrown into the pot. It is as if these people see a little bit of nature and feel compelled to despoil it.

  29. As much as i depreciate litterbugs, the paranoia of spying on folks to punish them seems as bad.

    Instead of ridiculing them in this venue, why not make use of Youtube’s comment feature and tell these morons what you think, or otherwise satarize their efforts?

    Tell them something like: Oh i know this guy’s name. It’s, uhhh, Sillius Soddus!

  30. Hi folks….

    My Name is Albert Berer… campaign manager for the anti litter campaign that you have been discussing here.

    I have decided to join you all here so as to answer some of your questions that you have raised.

    First let me say that for a year and a half now we have tried to softly softly approach of tapping people on the should and asking them to pick something up they have just dropped or flaming them to a crisp on the spot for adding to the litter blighted neighbourhood of ST Peters here in Leicester UK.

    This approach was met with an assortment of responses… from embarrassed and swift apology and a picking up of the offending item… to downright abusive back chat and threats of physical violence.

    By far the worst response was from young ladies who believe that if they do a silly girlish laugh and ask a damned stupid question like “how do i pick it up?” that it will in some way excuse their lack of class and upbringing.

    So… anyway… after over a year of trying softly softly we realised we needed to raise our game and that the gloves really did need to come off.

    We would rather the local authority here (Leicester City Council) have done all this. Or the police. But they didn’t.

    Had we not have done this, LCC may have continued to talk themselves round in circles for the next 3 or 4 generations about what to do about the problem of littering while the lives of those who live here pass by up to our ankles in litter and filth.

    Some have you have talked about rights. That’s a good subject. Quite rightfully some have pointed out the rights of people to live in decent neighbourhoods clean and clear of litter and other signal crime triggers such as litters great confederate at arms.. Graffiti.

    The people of this neighbourhood, pay a significant proportion of their income over to Leicester City Council… in return we get sub standard services and poor response to issues.

    If residents here don’t do things… often things will never get done.

    So just like how residents here take the cleaning of this neighbourhood into our own hands and often go out and pick up litter and fly tipped rubbish such as TV sets and old arm chairs dumped into the shrubberies on environment action days… we have had to take the identification and pursuit of litterers into our own hands too.

    Is using digital media on YouTube and our website not a litter tough? Someone here made the point that it was ham fisted.

    Well. All I can say is… taking a look at video’s that show the litter in this neighbourhood. Take a look at the photo galleries. ( see image 3) and you will see that really it is a proportionate response.

    And yes… we do use the same publishing policy for irresponsible dog owners who bring their dogs over from the other side of the neighbourhood to crap outside our buildings here. .

    These people need to recognise their responsibilities before they start to talk about their rights.

    I agree with the commenter who said that freedom all too often is taken as meaning that they have the freedom to do what the hell they like and that no one will say nothing or can do nothing about it.

    Well… what a big mistake that is now thanks to the internet and web publishing.

    Since the story broke on the 28th June 2009 this neighbourhood has been transformed.

    We used to be able to film litter louts every 30 minutes in every direction or so without fail. Now we can watch all day and never see one.

    Today, though we filmed one who in front of his wife and young family… emptied litter from his car out onto the footpath… got in the car and then for good measure before driving off.. ripped up a document of some sort and through it out of the window.

    It was like he was showing his kids how to litter.

    Well… hopefully his kids will tomorrow tap him on the shoulder and tell him how smart he is for getting himself on YouTube. Watch out for him (Litter Lout 25.)

    It’s like he don’t read news papers, listen to local or nation radio or TV… because like it’s been plastered everywhere. It’s not as if the whole country doesn’t know about it.

    The academic who stuck his neck on the line and said he didn’t think there would be fines or prosecutions from this will be proved wrong.

    He is already wrong in saying that he didn’t think it would have an effect.

    How do we film? Well… we get the sense for occasions when people might litter.

    Sometimes we run the camera’s to be proved wrong and lo and behold… they use a bin. Those people will never know how lucky they were.

    Sometimes we don’t run the cameras when we see someone or a car pull up… and we miss something.

    But the bad thing about litterers is that they are usually serial litterers and will always give us a second chance to film them if we miss them the first time.

    Any questions or comments?

  31. Please excuse the spelling.

    Tapping people on the shoulder… not ” tapping people on the should”.

    “Is using digital media on YouTube and our website not a litter tough?” should be “not a little tough?” but i’ll settle for “not a litter tough”.

    “no one will say nothing or can do nothing about it.” should be “no one will say anything or will do nothing about it.”

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