London: Police have ordered a CCTV blitz on dog walkers who let their animals foul the streetst.

Camera operators have been instructed to watch for anyone walking their pet in case they do not clean up after them.

Those caught failing to do so will be tracked down and hit with an on-the-spot fine.

Civil liberties groups and residents attacked the action by Surrey Police, calling it intrusive and a waste of time and money.

They said officers should be focused on cutting crimes such as burglary instead of snooping on dog walkers.

However other forces, including the Metropolitan Police said they could follow Surrey's lead.

The area where the cameras are being used to watch out for dog fouling is the village of Merstham, near Reigate.

It has seen four times as many burglaries than in July last year and the level of violent crime has soared — going up almost 20 per cent since last summer.

Alex Deane of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: "CCTV operators hunched over monitors for hours, trying to spot dogs doing what comes naturally — can anyone imagine a better example of our intrusive Big Brother society?"

"CCTV is often installed on the basis that it's for catching criminals, and then gets used to make money from drivers instead.

"But this is even worse — Surrey Police are wasting their time snooping on dogs and their owners when they should be out stopping crime."

Student Sarah Nicholls, who lives in the area, said: "We have people being burgled and assaulted around here.

"They can't watch burglars and dog-walkers at the same time. And even if they see something happening, are they going to send a squad car out to deal with it?"

Waste of money

Another resident Liz Baines, 44, added: "This is a waste of money. Yes, dog fouling is a problem. But I still don't think this is the best way to deal with it."

A Daily Mail survey found Nottinghamshire Police also admitted to using CCTV to spy on dog owners. As well as the Metropolitan Police, other forces which said they would consider doing so included Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Avon and Somerset.

However, Ministers have pledged to crack down on abuse of such cameras and new rules covering CCTV operators are likely to come into force next year.

Residents could be given a say in where they are placed and how they are used, preventing police and councils using them for snooping. Despite the massive increase in the numbers of CCTV cameras in Britain, there are growing concerns that they solve few crimes and are being misused.