Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Council accused of recruiting army of 2,000 'snoopers'

Council accused of recruiting army of 2,000 'snoopers'

November 9th 2009

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 surveillance''.

The council denied they were looking for ''inveterate curtain twitchers''. A spokesman said 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 next year.

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 every neighbourhood.

Councillor Susan Hall said: ''This is about extending more influence to our residents to help us deliver cleaner and safer streets.

''We have already invested in anti-social behaviour and cleaning teams, but the reality is that we are not always in a position to know when problems suddenly crop up.

''I really believe the Neighbourhood Champions network will help us to deliver cleaner and safer streets.

''We often talk about the loss of community spirit in our neighbourhoods - I think this is a great way of reclaiming some of that.''

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."

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