A council inquiry into the controversial installation of ‘anti-terror’ CCTV cameras in Birmingham is launched today (Monday) with evidence from senior police and community leaders.
The installation of more than 200 security and automatic number plate recognition, or ANPR, cameras, many of them hidden, in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook under the Project Champion banner sparked protests from residents who wondered why they had not been consulted.
They also claimed that with the £3.3 million set-up costs paid from a Home Office anti-terror fund, the police had branded the areas as “terrorist ghettos”.
The council’s Community Safety Scrutiny Committee will open its inquiry with evidence from Jackie Russell, director of the Safer Birmingham Partnership, West Midlands Police assistant chief constable Sharon Rowe and council cabinet member for community safety Ayoub Khan.
Community leaders will go before the committee for a second evidence gathering session on Wednesday afternoon.
The inquiry is going ahead despite a request from West Midlands Police that it be deferred until after another inquiry by Thames Valley Police is concluded.
But committee chairman James Hutchings (Cons, Edgbaston) said: “There is a logic to going ahead with our review while the issue is still topical and relevant.
“We don’t want to be doing this months later.”
The inquiry, which is due to present its findings in November, will report on whether large numbers of ANPR or CCTV cameras concentrated in specific areas is desirable or beneficial to the people of Birmingham
And set out principles for consultation, coordination and community engagement for future CCTV and ANPR projects, involving the council, police and Safer Birmingham Partnership.
West Midlands Police and the Partnership have already apologised for failure to consult with people before installing the cameras and has switched them off until consultation is complete.
A report to the inquiry includes the Partnership’s own guidance on CCTV installations established in June 2008. It states: “It is important to ensure that when a new CCTV system is being considered for an area, that the community is fully informed and any concerns expressed are fully considered.”