Councils across Britain have recruited thousands of citizen snoopers to report what their propaganda calls environmental crime .
According to the PR they target dog foulers, litter louts and neighbours who fail to sort their rubbish
properly. The volunteers spy on their neighbours and are encouraged to take photos of environmental crime and send them in with location details for a rapid response.
They are given hand-held GPS computers for the task or phone cards to
cover the cost of using their own devices. Evidence gathered this way is sometimes used in criminal prosecutions.
There are already 9,831 snoopers signed up, a 17% increase on the number two years ago. A further 1,310 are set to be recruited and
trained as part of schemes run by 18 councils.
Volunteers often apply to become what councils euphemistically call street champions through council websites, but many have also been lured by recruitment drives in local newspapers.
Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:
It should be deeply troubling for us all that councils seem not content with their own snooping and are now recruiting members of the public to assist them. If a crime is committed, it is the police who should be
involved, not local residents given hi-tech gadgets by councils, many of whom rarely pass up an opportunity to invade our privacy or hand out spurious fines.
These individuals operate with little or no training, and there is no
evidence to suggest it helps combat environmental crime. Councils seem to be unable to tell the difference between asking the public for help and getting the public to do their snooping for them.
Hillingdon Council in London boasts
the biggest street champions scheme with 4,850 volunteers, who record an average of 1,000 incidents a month.
A radio ad for the Anti-Terrorist Hotline stated The following message is brought to you by Talk Sport and the Anti-Terrorist Hotline. The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to
himself. He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions. We all have a role to play in
combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline. If you suspect it, report it .
1. Ten listeners, who believed the ad encouraged people to report law-abiding citizens who acted in the way
described in the ad, challenged whether the ad was offensive.
2. 16 listeners, who believed the ad could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours, challenged whether the ad was harmful.
3. Nine listeners challenged whether
the ad made an undue appeal to fear.
The ASA noted that the ad described a man who always paid with cash, did not speak to his neighbours and kept his curtains closed
during the day. We noted that description was based on behavioural trends identified by the police, and that the ad suggested that, when taken together, those behaviours could be grounds for suspicion.
However, we considered that the ad could also
describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community and we considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive. We
also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described. We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence.
2. Not upheld
We noted that
the ad conveyed its message in a measured and reasonable tone, and we therefore considered the ad was not sensationalist. We also noted that it did not suggest that listeners approach, harass or victimise anyone about whom they might have concerns, but
instead asked listeners to call a police hotline. We considered that the ad did not encourage or condone harassment or victimisation and we therefore concluded that the ad was not harmful.
3. Not upheld
We noted that the intention of the ad
was to raise awareness of the planning stages of terrorist attacks and to engage the public in reporting anything they might find suspicious. We also noted that the ads message was presented in a measured tone, which we considered was unlikely to provoke
Notwithstanding our concerns, in point 1 above, that the ad could cause serious offence, we noted that the ad stated that the behaviours described may mean nothing, but together could add up to you having suspicions , and we
considered that that conditional wording was proportionate and unlikely to cause anxiety for listeners about the extent of terrorist activity in their neighbourhood. We therefore concluded that the ad did not make an undue appeal to fear.
A new government commercial currently running on one of Britain's most popular radio stations is selling one thing -- fear -- by encouraging Londoners to report their neighbors as terrorists if they use cash, enjoy their privacy, or even close their
That chap at no 17 has closed his curtains again!
The advertisement, produced in conjunction with national radio outlet TallkSport, promotes the anti-terrorist hotline and encourages people to report individuals who don't talk to their neighbors much, people who like to keep themselves to
themselves, people who close their curtains, and people who don't use credit cards.
This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions, states the voice on the ad, before continuing We all have a role to
play in combating terrorism (we're all indentured stasi informants for the government).
If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential anti-terrorist hotline... if you suspect it, report it, concludes the commercial.
Edinburgh City Council has begun sending staff on courses designed to train them to look out for anything that might resemble terrorist activity .
According to the Edinburgh Evening News:
sources say that the sessions have included being told how to spot anything suspicious, and being asked to report anything – no matter how trivial – to police, such as quantities of empty bottles of bleach.
workers who visit a range of clients in their own home including vulnerable groups, people with addictions and elderly people, have been among the first to get the training.
Concierges, community safety teams and other
front-line staff across the council are also to be sent on the sessions, which are hosted by police as part of the Home Office's counter-terrorism strategy.
This is disgraceful fear-mongering that erodes trust in society and
encourages spying, snooping and suspicion. A sad state of affairs.
Members of the British public will receive £500 rewards to shop their neighbours via telephone hotlines under a scheme announced today.
The handouts will go to the first 1,000 people who provide tip-offs that lead to an unlawfully
occupied home being repossessed.
The government plans are aimed at the illegal sub-letting of social housing. In London, £250,000 will be available in rewards.
As well as hotlines, special websites and email addresses will be set
up to allow informants to pass on their suspicions, while there will also be publicity campaigns to encourage reporting.
Ministers say the cash incentives will help ensure that all council and housing association homes are lived in by those
genuinely in need.
Ministers say the scheme, which will cost £4 million, will help tackle other problems such as prostitution, drug production, illegal immigration and anti-social behaviour that can occur in sub-let housing.
critics said the payments were a further dangerous example of ministers encouraging unwarranted snooping. Dylan Sharpe of campaign group Big Brother Watch claimed the move showed the Government was creating an army of citizen snoopers .
A Conservative council has been criticised for recruiting 2,000 residents to snitch on their neighbours for litter infringements and anti-social behaviour.
Harrow Council in north west London wants 2,000 people - one for every 100 residents - to
sign up as a Neighbourhood Champion and report minor crimes, anti-social behaviour, litter and vandalism.
Campaigners have accused them of recruiting an army of snoopers and said the scheme would lead to less trust and more
The council spokesman claimed they wanted to restore old-fashioned community values .
If the £70,000 plan is approved this week, officials will begin recruiting volunteers with the aim of starting the scheme
Each one will be given training from town hall officials and police officers and issued with a manual setting out their role. Once the scheme is up and running, they will be given access to a council website to record their reports.
A council spokesman said they wanted the volunteers to be a point of contact for the council and report abandoned cars, graffiti and other problems.
Four fifths of residents questioned in a survey backed the idea of street champions for
But Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the Orwellian scheme would create an army of council snoopers .
He said: So now councils are trying to get us to spy on one another. If
they're successful it will lead to even less trust and ever more surveillance. An Orwellian big brother culture depends on everyone spying on everyone else - just as Harrow has planned.
Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator at human rights
group Liberty, said: Everyone should feel able to report suspicions of crime without any special badge of approval from the local authority. But as the recent abuses of surveillance powers demonstrate, giving some citizens extra responsibilities is
difficult and potentially dangerous. Civic duty is one thing but policing is best left to the professionals.