Saturday, 31 July 2010

More Project Champion spin

Following a mauling by the public, politicians and civil liberties organisations, the supporters of Project Champion, the hair-brain plan to encircle particular Muslim communities with spy cameras, are trying to regroup.

Their new strategy is to try and play Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook wards off against each other. We got a taster in the Birmingham Mail last week. They ran a story which might as well have been written by the police themselves. Apparently, 'Washwood Heath residents back use of CCTV'. The article includes quotes from some residents who were asked their views about the bagged cameras, and surprise surprise, responded by saying that if the cameras helped reduce crime and protect property, they were welcome. Sometime you can get the answer you want in the way you frame the question. And if the distinction between normal CCTV cameras and those which have a specific anti-terrorist surveillance remit is blurred, of course in areas with high crime rates people will invariably respond positively to their installation.

The article highlights the continuing dishonesty about Project Champion. If it accurately reflects what the police were saying to residents while on their walkabout, such slight of hand will only serve to deepen a sense within the Muslim community that the police are deliberately deceiving them. This will only further undermine trust.

The lack of awareness about Project Champion in Washwood Heath is exasperated by the behaviour of the elected Labour councillors who, in contrast to the Respect councillors in Sparkbrook, have said nothing and done nothing to either explain the real issues about the cameras or voice community concerns. I was glad therefore to receive a copy of a letter below from Kamran Yousaf and other residents in Washwood Heath to the Mail challenging the latest Project Champion spin.

I encourage them, and all others concerned about the threat to community cohesion and civil liberties that this scheme represents, to make their voices heard at the police consultation meeting this Wednesday, August 4th, 7.00pm in the Bordesley Centre, Camp Hill roundabout.

"I and the residents of Washwood Heath have been concerned with the article that appeared in this week's Birmingham Evening Mail saying that Washwood Heath residents were happy with the installation of spy cameras. The majority of the residents that I have spoken to in the area are against these cameras and want them to be taken down for good.

These cameras have not been installed to fight crime they have been put there to spy on innocent muslim people. We, and our children do not want to be labelled as 'terrorists' when we have done nothing wrong. The residents don't mind if there was evidence of an individual or group who were perpetuators and had involvement required to be under surveillance with the the use of similar cameras. The 3 million could have been better spent on tackling unemployment and improving the infrastructure in the area etc, and not on these spy cameras.

Also there are several hidden cameras in the area that no one, but the Police know about which, as we speak are monitoring 'innocent muslim' people. The Police have covered up these cameras and expect, once this story has died down to then switch the cameras on again. There is a bigger, hidden agenda behind this. This is totally unacceptable and we must campaign to have them taken down and not just covered up."