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STREET CLEANING & GRAFFITTI REMOVAL


We’re Watching You


A secret new scheme from Keep Britain Tidy looks to have made significant strides in reducing the serious problem of dog fouling on our streets. Here, they tell us all about the ‘We’re Watching You’ experiment and its positive results.


From the charity’s 60 years of experience in tackling environmental problems, Keep Britain Tidy knows what an emotive issue dog fouling is and just how much it matters to people. Often cited as a key area of dissatisfaction and complaint in residents’ surveys, sometimes as the leading street-related problem, we are also keenly aware of how much it matters to the land managers we work with. That is why we looked for a really different, innovative way to tackle the dog fouling problem, whilst helping to make a positive change to people’s behaviour in the long-term.


Local authorities around England are already running campaigns, from “Pick Up Or Pay Up” to “No S**t Sherlock”, or our own “There’s No Such Thing As The Dog Poo Fairy”, many with great successes in raising awareness and changing behaviours. But we wanted


to use the opportunity to test out a new idea to tackle an old problem, as a part of our wider “social innovation” experiments to prevent different types of litter and littering behaviour.


Evidence showed that some dog owners act irresponsibly when they think they aren’t being watched, or when they are walking their dogs after dark. Many of us can picture a local alleyway, secluded park entrance way or quiet car par that is particularly badly affected.


We wanted to test whether the idea of being watched, even when there is no one really watching, could be used to encourage people to pick up after their dogs. The idea had been tested in other situations before, but never to tackle dog fouling. And so our “We’re Watching You” experiment was born. Without publicising what we were doing, or where we were doing it, last Spring we partnered with 17 land managers across England to create and test out some new signage.


These signs are dominated by a watching pair of eyes, and the message “Thoughtless dog owners, we’re watching you!” Sometimes they include an associated enforcement or report it message, other times with positive reinforcement to promote good behaviour. The message was aimed at the few who don’t behave responsibly, rather than the many who do. Evidence also suggests many people have misconceptions when it comes to how to dispose of their dog poo, thinking they can only use special bins, so we included the message, “Bag that poo, any rubbish bin will do”.


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Simple, powerful messages, but hardly innovative? What made these so different to anything that had been tried before was the change in them after dark. For the fi rst time, we coated our signs in a special material, which absorbs light during the day, then glows after dark, lighting up the eyes and illuminating the message. The glowing eyes are intended to leave anyone who see them with a feeling they are being watched. Our partners selected areas they knew really suffered from dog fouling, across residential areas, green spaces and footpaths, then started quietly trialling the posters.


Without any associated web coverage, press releases, tweets or other campaign activity, our partners monitored the fouling before and during the posters were put up to give us a true picture of the eyes’ impacts. And the results were better than we could have hoped, with an overall average 46% reduction in dog fouling and some councils seeing a 75% reduction. Further monitoring in surrounding areas showed the fouling problem was genuinely reducing, rather than just moving.


Armed with these results, and knowledge that this idea and these tried and tested signs can lead to signifi cant reductions in dog fouling, we were in a position to roll them out as our new dog fouling campaign with local authorities and other land managers.


www.keepbritaintidy.org


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