May 10, 2011

Birmingham spy cameras removed after protests

by Jan Harris

Controversial surveillance cameras are being removed from the Birmingham suburbs of Washwood Heath, Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Moseley, where there is a large Muslim population.

The cameras, which were part of West Midlands Police’s ‘Project Champion’ counter terrorism strategy, were designed to secretly record the number plates of all cars entering and leaving the areas.

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said: “I would like to stress that the cameras have never been operational.”

The campaign against the CCTV and Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras was started by Moseley resident Steve Jolly last October.

According to West Midlands Police, a decision has not yet been made about what will happen to the cameras after they have been removed, however the BBC reports that they could be used as part of the counter terror strategy for the 2012 Olympics.

There was concern that a similar scheme could be introduced in West Yorkshire, where four of the 7/7 bombers lived, but West Yorkshire Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison has dismissed this idea as ‘very unlikely’ in a report to the local policing committee.

Secret cameras are also causing controversy in Southampton, where Taxi drivers have staged a protest against their use in cabs.

The drivers surrounded the City Council’s headquarters on the eve of the local elections last week, in protest against the compulsory requirement for the surveillance equipment to be installed.

Taxi drivers cannot turn of the cameras, which film passengers and record their conversations.

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