POLICE chiefs are encouraging people to film or photograph anyone who they see committing an offence.

Described as “citizen journalism” by North Yorkshire Police Chief Constable Dave Jones, he said that members of the public could play a vital role in helping to catch criminals and cut levels of crime, particularly driving offences.

At a Ryedale area committee meeting last week, Councillor Lindsay Burr raised concerns about the increase in people using their mobile phones while driving and asked the Chief Constable what could be done to tackle it. She said: “This is a serious problem that we need to tackle. I see so many people on their phones at traffic lights, particularly in Malton town centre. I think it is something that we could probably look at and do more of but at the end of the day we need enforcement.”

Mr Jones said that the police would continue to use mobile speed cameras but would not use fixed cameras in some areas because people get to know where the cameras are and slow down.

Instead, he said that the mobile speed cameras would be developed to detect people who were breaking the law by using their mobile phones while driving.

He said: “We are going to improve their capability so we can prosecute people for mobile phones. We do not do it to make money out of it, we do it to keep people alive. There is no excuse for using a mobile phone while driving. It is a matter of education and enforcement and getting society to see that it is just as anti-social as drink-driving.”

Mr Jones also highlighted the success the police have had as a result of cyclists in York wearing cameras on their helmets and filming drivers who have broken the law and he encouraged Ryedale residents to get behind the idea of citizen journalism.

“Every citizen is potentially a journalist now and we have cyclists in York who have recorded matters of people breaking the law. This is no different than someone ringing us up and saying they have seen somebody using their phone.”

Not all councillors were in support of the idea, with some expressing concerns of the repercussions this could have in such a small community. David Wright, representing Ryedale Voluntary Action, raised concerns that if someone was caught taking a photograph or filming someone they would suffer “retribution” because “everybody knows everybody”.