POLICE are supplying shop-keepers with hidden body cameras to crack down on racist attacks.
The £75 cameras, which have a micropohone, are capable of recording incidents at the touch of a button and are being issued to victims of hate crimes in Edinburgh.
The video cameras are the size of a USB stick and can be worn covertly.
Evidence of abuse that is recorded will be used by police to track down and help prosecute offenders.
Shopkeepers will have to display a sign which informs customers that CCTV is operating.
The move is part of a trial involving 17 retailers in the north of the city.
Police hope the devices, which measure about one inch long, will act as a deterrent and help drive down hate crimes.
It is the first time the technology has been deployed in Edinburgh, but if the scheme proves to be a success, it will be extended across the capital.
It is understood the cameras will be offered to local shop staff who have experienced previous attacks or repeated abuse.
Inspector Mark Rennie, of Drylaw police station, said: “We often find that store security guards and shop staff receive racist abuse when they challenge shoplifters or refuse purchases.
“We review every crime that’s reported. If we believe someone is vulnerable or has been repeatedly attacked we will offer them the use of these cameras.
“They can record audio, which can help our investigations should an incident take place because some CCTV cameras do not record sound.
“The cameras can be on the person or close by and if they feel threatened, they can press a button and it will begin to record.
“We hope it will deter people from committing hate crimes, as they know they will be recorded from the signs on the wall.”
Foysol Choudhury, chair of Edinburgh and Lothian Regional Equality Council, welcomed the initiative and said it would provide a safeguard for those vulnerable to hate crime.
“We believe that it would make local business owners and employees confident to conduct their business as well as report instances of hate crime. As a lot of people are not aware of processes about reporting hate crimes, the body cameras will make them confident about garnering evidence of such crimes.
“We hope that this step will increase rates of reporting of hate crimes.”
Inspector Rennie added: “It’s totally unacceptable, and these cameras are intended to provide reassurance to staff who have experienced such an incident, by offering a deterrent and helping to assist police collect evidence to identify offenders.
“This will increase our opportunities to arrest those responsible, take appropriate action to put them before the courts, and prevent them from being able to use the shop in the future.”
“Although the devices are discreet, they are small enough to ensure that staff have access to recording in areas that previously would not have been covered by their own CCTV.”