Controversial set of CCTV cameras to be removed from Birmingham districts

Cctv154 After a long-running campaign, a controversial set of CCTV cameras are finally being removed from Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath in Birmingham. The regions are predominantly Muslim, and local residents had been fiercely opposed to the system. Many wondered why two medium-sized districts in Birmingham required 218 cameras, including 169 advanced Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which monitor the movement of vehicles. 

The cameras had been financed with funding from a counter-terrorism initiative, but had been marketed to locals as a general crime-prevention measure. As long ago as last October, the chief constable of West Midlands Police called for the cameras to be removed, and suggested working closely with the local community would be a superior method to keep crime rates low. Locals had viewed the installation of the cameras as intrusive and divisive. Some had suggested the cameras were actually designed to spy on the Muslim population, rather than reduce crime. One local, Steve Jolly, led a now successful campaign to have the cameras removed.

Assistant Chief Constable Sharon Rowe said:

"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."

Daniel Hamilton, director of Big Brother Watch, said today:

"While we are delighted these cameras are being removed, this expensive and oppressive waste of time should never have been given the go-ahead. Vital civil liberties and any basic concept of privacy were both disregarded by this scheme.

"These cameras were totally unnecessary for anti-terror or anti-crime purposes and only served to alienate Muslim residents. Public trust in the police has been significantly undermined and will take years to rebuild."

Lessons should be learnt from this entire fiasco, primarily that installing expensive, intrusive CCTV systems should not be the default approach to dealing with crime. The total cost of the exercise has not been revealed, but this money could and should have been used on police officers who can actually fight crime, not on cameras which were never even turned on. It would be beneficial, though unlikely, if this started a more general debate about the use of CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom.

Posted by on May 9, 2011 in CCTV | 11 Comments


  1. Richard Craven
    9th May 2011

    Steve Jolly is a hero.

  2. shaun
    9th May 2011

    Hooray, hopefully as you say more authorities might listen and remove unwanted and expensive CCTV cameras.
    Although lest we forget, they do know what’s in our best interest.

  3. Time Traveller
    9th May 2011

    I applaud this move but I’m having great difficulty in equating the various police statements with successful local protest elsewhere in the country. Does anybody have evidence that this is a move towards genuine state accountability or is it, as it appears at the moment, preferential treatment for one particular part of the community?

  4. vervet
    9th May 2011

    Good news but … who will take responsibility for the (I guess) millions of pounds that have been spent on this installation, done without the consent of the people ? Who will resign their position for such an obvious error of judgement ?
    Rhetorical questions, obviously.

  5. Purlieu
    9th May 2011

    Has a camera actually been physically removed yet ?

  6. NeverSurrender
    9th May 2011

    It is high time that all CCTV cameras were removed to restore our liberty that was taken from us by the NuCommunist Party.

    9th May 2011

    I cannot believe the spineless ast. chief constable sharon rowe has caved in to pressure from the muslim community to have the cameras removed.In effect you are giving free licence to these people in alum rock and sparkhill to carry on using cars with no tax,mot or insurance.If the cameras had been put up in a predominantly non muslim area there would not have been many objections as they would have been considered to be securety help.Once again it is one rule for muslims and another for everyone else.IT STINKS. TELBOY

  8. Richard Craven
    10th May 2011

    Agreed. I am mystified by this penchant for the public display of endoscopes.

  9. Richard Craven
    12th May 2011

    @T Russell
    It WAS one rule for Muslims and another for everyone else. The people of Alum Rock were subjected to even more surveillance than the rest of us because many of them are Muslims. Following the removal of the excess cameras, it is NOT one rule for Muslims and another for everyone else, as presumably Alum Rock is now subjected to levels of surveillance comparable to other communities.

  10. Kevin Harris
    16th May 2011

    I don’t find CCTV cameras as intrusive, in fact CCTV is just another crime prevention tool specially for business area. CCTV is highly useful for crime prevention as it increases the chance of the perpetrator being caught.

  11. Deborah
    16th May 2011

    Kevin, I would make a suggestion that you buy, read and try to critically understand the novel Nineteen Eighty Four.
    It was a warning not a blueprint.
    The relationship between the individual and the state is something that should always be questioned by those who value freedom of movement, thought and expression.