A scrapped surveillance project which unfairly targeted Muslims in Birmingham should be reinstated, according to Labour MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood.
‘Project Champion’ cost £3 million pounds saw the installation of 218 CCTV cameras, 64 of which were covert, to spy on Muslims. The invasive cameras were removed in 2010 after complaints from locals, human rights activists and civil liberties campaigners.
According to the Daily Star Mr Mahmood called for the return of the cameras:
“The cameras were doing a very good job. We ended up selling hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of cameras for a pound each. There is a real issue of security for the whole community.
“These guys were not going to go outside Birmingham as they had not done any reconnaissance, so the target would have been in Birmingham. I think we need this aid for the security services and the police to help us.
“The police chickened out. They need to stand up to the opposition.”
Speaking to the Birmingham Mail, he accused the police of failing to stand their ground:
“I think the scheme should be revived.
“Various politicians and community groups jumped on the bandwagon when this became a big issue a few years ago.
“But the reality is that there has been a huge number of arrests and convictions in these particular areas of the city.
“I don’t see why this scheme should not be revived.
‘‘The police ran away from this issue, instead of standing their ground and dealing with the concerns that people had and adjusting the scheme as required.
“The lack of consultation on this scheme was unacceptable, but I see nothing wrong with having the cameras there to protect people in Birmingham and the rest of the UK.
“These are difficult times that we live in and that requires taking some difficult decisions. We needed to stand up on this issue instead of just switching into some sort of political correct mode.
‘‘They (the cameras) would have helped the security services enormously, particularly in the suicide bomb plot we have been hearing about. It’s absolutely bizarre that this equipment was wasted at a huge cost to the taxpayer and the country.
“It would have been a huge asset and it has been lost.
“I now want to see a replacement.”
And according to the BBC he addressed the criticism the project has received civil liberties campaigners, essentially claiming the potential for safety, is worth the loss of privacy:
“I understand the issue of ‘Big Brother’ watching people, but when there is an overall issue of the civil liberties of people who could be maimed or killed by actions of certain individuals, it is worth it.
“The reality is that there have been terrorist plots foiled in this area, and people caught, which shows there is a need.
“Some of those cameras were sold off for £1 each – it was such a waste of money. I know there’s been strong feeling against the idea, but all that was needed was to speak properly to the people in those areas – not just community leaders – and explain the reasons why they were needed.”
Mr Mahmood has failed to recognize that according to studies, CCTV cameras do not reduce crime and they do not provide an extra layer of safety to the general public.
Also a report from the Thames Valley police stated that the covert surveillance was responsible for ‘significant damage to community relations’, and that it had ‘set relations back a decade’.