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CCTV Protest in Balsall Heath Continues

Bob and Betty | 28.09.2006 22:28 | Social Struggles | Birmingham

Summary of ongoing campaign to get rid of a CCTV camera on our road, put up without consultation with residents, and suggesting that the protests are extended to other CCTV cameras. Also to link this with anti ID card campaigns,

Anti-CCTV Boy
Anti-CCTV Boy

CCTV Protest in Balsall Heath continues

Following the street protest on the 23rd of July 2006 on Birchwood Road in Birmingham where angry residents showed their opposition to the installation of a CCTV camera on their road, there has been ongoing activity by those residents to demand the camera’s removal.

An anti-CCTV information leaflet was distributed to all residents shortly after the protest. Then a petition was put together demanding the removal of the CCTV camera. Every house on Birchwood and Alder Roads was called upon twice. Many discussions were had with people both for and against the camera. Those who have been active against the camera were surprised at the number opposed to the camera and their very good reasons for opposing the camera, also almost everybody was dissatisfied that they were not consulted about the camera going up:

Over 60% of residents signed the petition demanding the removal of the CCTV Camera!
Residents demanding the removal of the CCTV camera: 32
Residents who said they wanted to keep the CCTV camera: 19*

A total of 81 houses were called upon in this survey: 31 houses in Alder Road; 46 houses in Birchwood Road; and 4 flats. 27 of these were empty when called upon and are therefore not represented.

* 11 of these indicated they would have wished to be consulted prior to the CCTV camera being installed. The total figure of 18 includes two individuals resident on Alder Road and Birchwood Road who weren’t consulted in the petition but whose opinion in favour of the CCTV camera is well known.

The leaflet and the petition prompted the people who had some responsibility for installing the CCTV camera to organise a meeting at a local restaurant to answer questions and concerns and provide information on the camera.

This meeting took place on Tuesday the 12th of September 2006. Pro and Anti-CCTV residents attended the meeting – even an anonymous ‘ANTI-CCTV-Boy’ attended (see picture). The masked crusader was told by the organiser of the meeting Ms Becky Jones the ‘Sparkbrook Ward Support Officer’ that people might object to be filmed. She was told; yes they do, that’s why there’s an Anti-CCTV campaign. Later when the meeting started she tried to get people to object to the presence of the video camera at the meeting, but the irony of this was apparent to most people even those who were in favour of keeping the CCTV camera.
The meeting was well attended. Some of the pro-CCTV residents seemed very angry, perhaps because they suspected the validity of the anti-CCTV message. Some of them even started to question how effective it was likely to be once they were told by PC Grant Moss (crime reduction and architectural liason officer) of various aspects about the camera. They were not pleased when they were told nothing would be done if a ‘crime’ or ‘anti-social’ behaviour was observed, and that the camera images would only being used for evidence.
The message of the ‘Anti-CCTV campaign’ was clear. We object to the increase of surveillance in our society and we value our civil liberties. We said we also shared many of the concerns about crime (though may have a different analysis of the causes) and some about the ‘anti-social’ behaviour, but said that evidence shows that CCTV cameras increase anxiety amongst the public and do not reduce crime, also that the money spent on cameras could be better spent on other social solutions such as provision of facilities for young people. We requested information on the installation and running costs of this camera and every other CCTV camera in Birmingham.

There was a representative from Salma Yaqoob the ‘Respect’ councillor present at the meeting, but she herself had indicated earlier that she had other commitments on that day.

A letter from Becky Jones was sent out to all Birchwood and Alder Road residents three days after the meeting. This summarised the meeting and said: “ To ensure that residents can make an informed and knowledgeable decision regarding the future of this camera, it was agreed that Local Services within Hall Green Constituency, will do a review of this project this will then be taken to the residents for them to make a final decision on the CCTV camera’s future.
The review will include:

• Identifying concerns regarding the consultation process.
• Outcome of visits made by residents to the monitoring station.
• Costs incurred and ongoing costs to be met.
• Revue of CCTV effectiveness – using up to date data from other similar schemes.
• Identifying other options/solutions which may be available to either replace, or enhance, a community safety project for the area.
• Discussions from a further meeting convened with residents to share with them the outcomes of the work undertaken within this revue.
• Once all the information has been gathered and shared with all residents in Birchwood and Alder Roads then every resident will be asked to give their final vote to decide if the camera remains.

The outcome of the petition was made known to the meeting but the petition itself was presented to the Sparkbrook ward committee on the 21st of September 2006. Councillors Talib Hussain and Dilawar Khan were informed of the strength of feeling against the CCTV camera and they were advised that if their own consultation with residents was not as comprehensive as the petition, then we would regard our petition as a better measure of the number of people against the camera, and therefore would still regard the democratic decision of the roads was to remove the camera.

We feel that the anti-CCTV camera campaign on the roads has been effective and has raised some awareness of the onward march of surveillance and social control. There is still more to be done with this campaign, but when some pro-CCTV residents of Alder road say they need another camera round the corner it prompts the question as to when will it stop? Will there be a time when we are always under surveillance and with ID cards they will also always know who we are?
Is it time now to extend the anti-CCTV campaign to other areas of Birmingham and to also link this with the growing campaign against the ID card?

Perhaps ‘ANTI-CCTV BOY’ can help:

Bob and Betty


Pictures from the meeting at the Punjab Paradise restaurant

29.09.2006 12:51

ANTI-CCTV-Boy up close and impersonal
ANTI-CCTV-Boy up close and impersonal

Pro-CCTV people objecting to being filmed at the meeting
Pro-CCTV people objecting to being filmed at the meeting

PC Grant Moss West Midlands Police trying his best to avoid being filmed
PC Grant Moss West Midlands Police trying his best to avoid being filmed

Here are some photos from the meeting at the balti restaurant, on Ladypool Road in Balsall Heath.

There seems to be a trend developing in Balsall Heath when it comes to the local authority and voluntary organisations like the Balsall Heath Forum putting on food for people at meetings. During the aftermath of the tornado last year, many meetings were held in balti restaurants or included food laid on by restaurants.

What are they hoping to achieve by feeding us, is it just an attempt to get people along to their meetings, or is it more instrumental - to gain our tacit consent for their initiatives?

PC Grant Moss (pictured above) threatened to seize the film from a DV camera at the meeting, claiming you need a license - just like professional CCTV operatives, to film publicly. Nevertheless, we ignored his empty threats and continued filming.

For someone who's job involves liaising with the public about CCTV, it seemed strangely ironic that he was so evasive when it came down to actually filming him talking about CCTV.

video to follow...

if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to worry about ;)


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  1. Come to London, Please. — OsamaBinCohen