Children as young as eight have been recruited by councils to "snoop" on their neighbours and report petty offences such as littering, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The youngsters are among almost 5,000 residents who in some cases are being offered £500 rewards if they provide evidence of minor infractions.
One in six councils contacted by the Telegraph said they had signed up teams of "environment volunteers" who are being encouraged to photograph or video neighbours guilty of dog fouling, littering or "bin crimes".
The "covert human intelligence sources", as some local authorities describe them, are also being asked to pass on the names of neighbours they believe to be responsible, or take down their number-plates.
Ealing Council in West London said: "There are hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers, aged 8-10 years old, who are trained to identify and report enviro-crime issues such as graffiti and fly-tipping."
Harlow Council in Essex said: "We currently have 25 Street Scene Champions who work with the council. They are all aged between 11 to 14. They are encouraged to report the aftermath of enviro-crimes such as vandalism to bus shelters, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, fly-tipping etc. They do this via telephone or email direct to the council."
Look, I know that comparisons with Orwell's 1984 are becoming pretty de rigueur these days; however, I would like to remind you of the fact that, in said novel, Winston Smith's hapless neighbour, Parsons, was dobbed into the Thought Police by his own children after they heard him denouncing The Party in his sleep.
Draw your own conclusions...