Quick-thinking litterer

There was a very heartening story in the news last week. A teenager was spotted via a CCTV camera dropping litter near the war memorial in Hartlepool’s Victory Square. The system cranked into action and police officers confronted the teenager (who was with a group of his friends) and threatened him with a fine.

Now – what would you expect the average teenager to do in such circumstances, I wonder ? Let out a torrent of abuse at the officers and run away ? Perhaps even lash out and inflict physical injury on the policemen ? On the other hand, some teenagers might protest that “it wasn’t me who dropped it” or perhaps even confess and apologise for their act of littering.

Well, what actually happened was none of these. The quick-thinking teenager dashed into a nearby shop and reappeared with a roll of bin bags. He enlisted the help of his mates and they filled 2 bins bags with rubbish from all over the square in a matter of minutes.

The police were, not surprisingly, very impressed by all this : “I think it is excellent that first of all the youth involved recognised what he had done. He seemed to be horrified by his actions. His effort and that of his friends to make amends is very encouraging”, said the Acting Chief Inspector. You do wonder, though, to what extent the youth was “horrified” by the fact that he had littered rather than horrified at the prospect of a £75 fine.

Anyway, I do suggest that the moral of this story is that common sense, with a healthy dash of creativity, can act as a much more effective educator and changer of behaviour than a simple fine. I think that the policemen deserve huge credit for their human approach to this situation. You would think that the young man will remember this episode for years to come and can happily claim bragging rights for how his flash of inspiration saved him from a hefty fine. His bragging in itself will act as a highly effective “word of mouth” reminder to his circle of friends that littering isn’t a civilised habit.

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