British police have apologized for a counterterrorism project that installed surveillance cameras in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods, saying that although the cameras had never been switched on, the program had damaged trust and caused anger in the
The surveillance program, which saw more than 200 CCTV cameras and number plate recognition devices put up in parts of Birmingham, was conceived in 2007 after a series of terrorist plots were uncovered in the city.
complained that they were not consulted about the program, and civil liberties groups protested that the measures were heavy-handed.
An independent review conducted by Thames Valley Police, in southern England, criticized police in central England
for the camera program. The review found little evidence of thought being given to compliance with the legal or regulatory framework before the cameras were put up.
West Midlands Police constable Chris Sims said authorities had made a
mistake in not considering the impact of the cameras in intruding into people's privacy: I am sorry that we got such an important issue so wrong and deeply sorry that it has had such a negative impact on our communities .
Update: All apologies but no removal
18th October 2010. Based on article
West Midlands Police is facing legal action if it does not remove all cameras controversially put up in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham.
More than 200 covert and overt cameras were installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, paid for with
government money to tackle terrorism.
The force made unlikely sounding claims that the covert ones had been removed after uproar from residents.
Liberty plans to start a judicial review if there is no commitment made to remove the rest
within two weeks.
The £3m scheme, called Project Champion, saw cameras being put up by the Safer Birmingham Project (SBP), made up of the city council, police and agencies in the Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook districts. They can record pictures
and number plates of every car that goes in or out of the areas.
Last month Chief Constable Chris Sims apologised after an independent report into what happened said the force showed little evidence of thought being given to compliance with the
legal or regulatory framework before the cameras were put up. Sims said none of cameras had ever been used and the remaining cameras had been covered with bags until after discussion with a new project board with a strong community representation
But Liberty said it wanted assurances all the cameras would be removed otherwise it would pursue legal proceedings in the High Court. Corinna Ferguson, legal officer with Liberty, said: It is baffling that West Midlands Police are still
trying to salvage this unlawful discriminatory scheme. These cameras are useless for everyday policing and must be removed immediately if badly damaged relations are to be repaired.
Cameras to be removed
28th October 2010. Based on article from
More than 200 cameras targeted at Muslim suburbs of Birmingham as part of a secret counter-terrorism initiative are to be dismantled.
The West Midlands police chief constable, Chris Sims, said he believed all cameras installed as part of the £3m
surveillance initiative should be taken down to rebuild trust with local Muslims.
The scheme, Project Champion, was shelved less than six months ago when an investigation by the Guardian revealed police had misled residents into believing the
cameras were to be used to combat vehicle crime and antisocial behaviour.
In fact, the CCTV and automatic number plate reading (ANPR) cameras were installed as part of a programme run by the force's counter-terrorism unit with the consent of the
Home Office and MI5.
Police failed to obtain statutory clearance for around a third of the cameras, which were covert.
In a statement, Sims said: I believe that the support and the confidence of local communities in West Midlands police
is the most important thing for us in the fight against crime and terrorism. We can fight crime and the threat posed by terrorism 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.
Sims made no reference to the legal action he would have faced if he let the scheme continue. The civil rights organisation Liberty wrote to the force last week, threatening to commence judicial
review proceedings at the high court unless the force agreed within 14 days to dismantle the full surveillance infrastructure .
Today's recommendation was backed by the police authority and will not be put to a project board set up in
August to take over management of the cameras. The board, which was recently told almost all members of its advisory group wanted the cameras dismantled, is unlikely to object when it meets on Thursday.
A Birmingham council scrutiny committee has
released its own report, finding senior police officers guilty of deliberately misleading councillors over the purpose of the scheme.
Update: Removal Started
13th May 2011. See article from
Surveillance cameras set up in two predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods will start to be removed today, police said.
The 218 cameras, some of
which were hidden, sparked anger from civil liberties campaigners and residents in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath in Birmingham, where they were mainly erected.
The number plate recognition and CCTV cameras were financed under a counter-terrorism
initiative but were initially marketed to locals as a general crime-prevention measure.
West Midlands Police said work to take down the cameras and equipment is starting today, and all cameras will be removed this month.
Update: Removal Completed
12th June 2011. From bigbrotherwatch.org.uk
the longest running campaigns of Big Brother Watch came to a conclusion this week as the final camera of the ill-fated Project Champion was removed in Birmingham.
Big Brother Watch have been following this story for over a year now, ever
since the 218 camera network was installed in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, predominantly Muslim areas of the city. There were constant suspicions that the project was based on racial profiling and the financial backing came from the counter-terrorism