Birmingham's 'anti-terrorism' spy cameras to be switched off
West Midlands Police which was heavily criticised for installing £3 million security cameras as part of an anti-terrorism drive in parts of Birmingham is to agree not to switch them on.
It is understood the force will admit it failed to fully consult with inner-city residents over the installation of the controversial ring of spy cameras in the predominantly Asian areas of Sparkbrook, Sparkhill and Washwood Heath.
Officers have promised to hold further talks with the communities about the 150 automatic number plate recognition, or ANPR, cameras in a ring of steel around the area.
Birmingham City Council leaders piled the pressure on police over the cameras, 40 of which are in secret locations.
An official statement announcing the switch off was due to be issued by the Safer Birmingham Partnership, the partnership organisation made up of police, council and other public bodies.
But police sources have said the cameras will not be switched on and admitted officers failed to consult communities.
Called Operation Champion, the cost of the cameras came from the Terrorism and Allied Matters Fund, prompting claims the area is being “stigmatised as a terrorist ghetto” and that civil liberties were being eroded with Big Brother style surveillance.
The cameras are designed to record the number plates of all vehicles entering and leaving the area and flag up any wanted by police or under suspicion - as well as those with out of date MOTs or unpaid fines.
Senior councillor responsible for Community Safety Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem, Aston) welcomed the move and urged police to cover the cameras so residents are in no doubt that they are not active.
He said: “They need to cover up the cameras to give them added reassurance. Some will not believe they are inactive.”
He added that the failure to consult had left a bitter taste.
“All communities felt offended by the manner in which ANPR cameras were placed, not just the Muslim community.
“I am not against ANPR and CCTV technology. In many areas it is welcome because it creates a feeling of safety.
“Unfortunately, with this particular scheme it is obvious that the local communities were not consulted. I was never informed at any stage in relation to the intensity or the geographical coverage of such a system. Counter terrorism was mentioned at a meeting, but it was as a bolt-on extra not the main thrust.”
Residents have criticised the cameras and a petition was presented at the city council this week calling for the resignation of the Chief Constable Chris Sims.
Local councillor Tanveer Choudhry (Lib Dem Springfield) said: “The area has been stigmatised as a terrorist ghetto. The police should remove the cameras until they have fully consulted with local communities.”
He added that local cynics believe consultation will make little difference and that the cameras will eventually be activated as planned no matter what locals say.
At a heated city council meeting on Tuesday, council chiefs including Ayoub Khan and deputy leader Paul Tilsley said they had not been consulted or involved in the decision to site the cameras, laying the blame fully at the door of the police.
Roger Godsiff, the Labour MP for Hall Green, condemned the cameras in a House of Commons motion this week and has demanded the Government intervened to ensure the cameras remained unused.