Friday, 6 August 2010

Police Criticised for Creating 'Stigmatised Ghetto'

Members of two East Birmingham communities have heavily criticised West Midlands police for it’s handling of the installation of CCTV cameras on their doorsteps.

The force have put up 216 cameras in the Washwood Heath and Sparkhill areas of the city, however local people feel they are being ‘stigmatised as a terrorist ghetto,’ as both areas are home to significant Muslim populations.

The 169 Automatic Number Plate Recognition – or ANPR – and 40 CCTV cameras were first set up more than two months ago at a cost of £3 million as part of Operation Champion

However as 40 of the camera’s have been put in secret location’s – and owing to the fact that there are only 50 CCTV cameras covering the whole of Birmingham city centre, many in the area feel that they are being unjustly spied on by police.

Raju Amin a resident in Sparkhill said on BBC Breakfast News, “These cameras have been enforced on the community, they have targeted the whole community and we have been lumbered with them without any consultation from the police.”

Another local from the area, Abdullah Saif followed up, “The vast majority of people we have spoken to have said that the way to move forward is for a proper consultation to be held and for the camera’s to be removed.”

Police have responded to the criticism by agreeing to put bags over the cameras and not to use them to covertly monitor both areas, they have also agreed to hold talks with anyone who has concerns over the presence of the cameras.

There has been widespread criticism of the scheme from many quarters in the city, with growing calls for all the devices to be taken down altogether.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast News, Corrinna Ferguson from Human Rights Organisation Liberty said, “Clearly major mistakes were made in respect of these camera’s by West Midlands Police.

“They misled elected local officials and the community as to the purpose of the camera’s.”

“By targeting the whole community – as opposed to just keeping individuals under surveillance – they risk breaking down relationships with that community and making people very angry.

There have also been rumours that money used to pay for the scheme came out of funds used to combat counter terrorism.

There are also reports that if police fail to take the cameras down then some young men in the area will take the devices down themselves.

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