POLICE and council officers launched a dawn “poop swoop” targeting dog owners who don’t pick up after their pets.
The operation was carried out at hotspots blighted by dog dirt in Seaham, after residents and businesses complained that fouling in streets, parks and beauty spots is the second biggest problem to anger them, after drug abuse and dealing.
Officers made spot checks during peak walking times to try to catch errant owners.
Problem areas include Malvern Crescent, The Lawns and Lawnside in Deneside, Dawdon Dene Park and the town centre.
The patrols were launched in conjunction with Durham County Council, with both its environmental wardens and Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) able to issue fines.
They start at £50, rising to £80 if not paid within 10 days, and could also lead to any figure up to £1,000 for repeat offenders.
PCSO Kerri Hall said after the morning checks, which also included the beach: “Several dog workers were seen and advised regarding the problem.
“Happily, all of these appeared to be responsible dog owners.
“However, in recent weeks a number of owners have been issued with fixed penalty fines.”
The council said it has received 149 reports of dog fouling in Seaham during the last year, with 11 fixed penalty notices issued.
A recent survey carried out in the town found 53 per cent of people said dog fouling was an issue, compared to 55 per cent who were troubled by drug dealing and abuse.
The issues, along with drink-related antisocial behaviour just behind dirt, were also highlighted at police and community together meetings.
PCSO Hall added: “There has been a significant reduction in antisocial behaviour in the Seaham area in the last year and we have worked hard to reduce drinking and similar issues.
“However, the issue of dog fouling is one that has been highlighted recently.
“We encourage the community to share information with Durham County Council and ourselves so we can continue to work together to keep the area safe and clean.
“Any information will be treated in confidence.”