According to today’s Independent, “Controversial surveillance cameras… will start to be removed today..”.
These cameras are number plate recognition and CCTV cameras, all in widespread use throughout the UK as evidenced here, here, here, here, here and here. It is claimed that Britain is the most surveilled country in the world with millions of cameras recording our every movement. So desperate is the state to peer into our lives in this supposedly free country that we are also being subjected to pilotless camera drones and, for the future, are likely to have to live with flying cameras that mimic birds to follow you or peer through your windows. And if all that isn’t enough for you, we’ve got police equipped with helmet cameras, traffic wardens equipped with helmet cameras and even cameras in private homes (so that the
control-freaks benevolent state can ensure that your kids go to bed on time!). Nor let us forget that our bureaucrats remain determined to convince the politicians of the need to install tracking technology in all our cars under the guise of road-pricing: no doubt, they’ll feel the need to add passenger imaging to that in due course. If Google doesn’t get there first, of course.
Many people support these measures. There again, many people think that en suite bathrooms are a measure of quality of life or that the minutiae of Cheryl Cole’s existence is a worthy journalistic pursuit.
Me, I would have preferred that the money invested in all these cameras, recording equipment and monitoring had been spent on proper crime prevention rather than recording the humdum lives of the law-abiding majority. But I’m just ungrateful, I guess.
So today’s news is good news, right? Well, yes and no…
It’s certainly good news that intrusive cameras are being removed from sites in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath, two areas in Birmingham. And it’s certainly good news that Chief Constable Chris Sims argued for the cameras to be be pulled down in a bid to regain the trust of residents. As he so eloquently put it,
“We can fight crime… far more effectively by working hand in hand with local people, rather than alienating them through a technological solution which does not have broad community support”.
Incredibly, an independent report by Thames Valley Police had already criticised the scheme for a lack of transparency and insufficient consultation. A police force actually putting its hands up (OK, for another police force!) for lack of transparency and insufficient consultation.. Wow! At this rate, we might even see the day when the Independent (sic) Police Complaints Commission upholds a complaint against their uniformed brethren..
Indeed, it appears to be a victory for democracy and civil liberty all round with not only the Chief Constable seeing the light but also Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe providing her own mea culpa,
“The work starting today shows that we have listened to what our communities wanted and acted upon those wishes.
“We have liaised closely with our communities to keep them informed of developments and when they can expect cameras to be removed from actual streets.
“I would like to stress that the cameras have never been operational.
“We accept that mistakes were made and we are keen to learn the lessons that emerged from the review into Project Champion. The removal of the cameras is part of that learning process.
“Our neighbourhood teams will now focus on forging closer links with local communities across the affected areas.”
I’m in agreement with all the sentiments expressed so what on earth is there for me to complain about amongst all this breast-beating contrition and positive action?
Well, the cameras are only coming down in two small areas, of course. And there appear to be no plans to extend the police’s implicit trust to the wider population nor free the rest of us from the sense of alienation felt by the residents of Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath.
Unfair, surely, but what I’ve deliberately withheld from you thus far is that all that tearing down of cameras, all that need for transparency, all that working hand in hand so as not to alienate local residents and all that regret over a failure to consult – all of which is virtually unprecedented in modern Britain – only appears to be happening because those two small areas are largely populated by Muslims.
The sub-text seems obvious. If you want your view taken into account and if you want the police to care about regaining your trust, it might just help your case if you first convert to Islam.