DRUNKS and criminals in East Oxford will feel the long lens of the law after officers started regular patrols equipped with body cameras.

On Saturday, officers began sporting the so-called ‘bodycams’ in an effort to reduce drunken and rowdy behaviour in Cowley Road and neighbouring streets.

The neighbourhood team has been equipped with two £850 Body Worn Video Recording cameras, which will be used in tandem with six £1,000 helmet cameras for cycle patrols. The gadgets will be worn everyday.

Police believe the devices will help residents sleep more soundly as they have proved effective in curbing public disorder since they were introduced in the city centre in November last year.

Pc Lewis Boyce, of the East Oxford team, said: “This is a huge step forward for the Cowley Road. The cameras are perfect for policing the night-time economy, when you can have incidents from people coming out of nightclubs.

“They make officers feel safer and they will help to make the streets of East Oxford safer. The cameras have a real impact on someone’s behaviour.

“Offenders calm down pretty quickly when they realise they are on camera so we can restore law and order quicker and people stop their behaviour before a situation escalates.”

Three months ago police credited the recorded evidence from bodycams for increasing the number of convictions for violent crime and public disorder.

The move follows the introduction of CCTV along Cowley Road in January.

Jan Bartlett, who owns Premier Lettings on Cowley Road, said: “This is definitely a good idea.

“I feel 100 per cent safer now and the area is so improved.

“We haven’t had any trouble now for a long time.”

And Aziz Ur-Rahman, of Aziz restaurant, said: “It will definitely improve the area and I hope create a better, fresher, cleaner, more friendly environment.

“Cowley Road itself is certainly safer since the cameras (were installed) but I think we need to see more policing on the side streets.”

In the past year, police in Oxford have solved half of all violent crime incidents – compared to 36 per cent in 2006 and 41 per cent in 2007.

The East Oxford team first trialled helmet cams last summer but this is the first time they have been used regularly.

Pc Boyce said: “The cameras provide perfect evidence for us for street level crime.

“They really help prove to the magistrates what someone has done and the effect that crime has had on its victim.

“The cameras are also extremely helpful from a licensing point of view so we can show venue owners the impact their customer’s behaviour is having on residents who are trying to sleep.”

Footage of a crime is burned on to a DVD at police headquarters for evidence.