For persistent offenders, a fine may be the only answer

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We all know statistics can be misleading. In fact the same figures can be used to make two very different cases.

Take the subject of dog fouling in public places in Portsmouth. The Lib Dems say it’s a big problem and point to how only three penalty notices have been issued in the city so far this year.

That comes after a grand total of four fines were handed out in the whole of 2014.

To Portsmouth Lib Dem Group leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, this clearly shows the council is not doing enough to catch and fine people who flout the law by not clearing up their pets’ mess.

But Tory council leader Donna Jones chooses to view exactly the same statistics in an entirely different way. In her eyes, they show that dog fouling is on the decrease across Portsmouth.

She says: ‘We have worked hard to re-educate people about the effects of litter dropping and dog fouling rather than simply fining them.’

So who should we believe? Well, they might both have a point.

Just over a year ago Cllr Jones merged the community wardens and estate support officers’ roles and launched the new Clean Cities team. It has certainly been trying to get across the message that leaving dog mess is anti-social.

That’s the ‘carrot’, if you like.

Yet if Cllr Vernon-Jackson is right when he claims people often tell him they are fed up with Portsmouth’s streets being so messy, then perhaps the ‘stick’ approach of punishments is also needed.

Cllr Jones says fines are draconian and can be hard to enforce. But if there is a hardcore of dog owners who are not responding to other methods, being hit in the wallet may be the only way to get them to change their ways.