Birmingham Project Champion 'spy' cameras being removed

Street scene showing one of the cameras in Birmingham West Midlands Police said it accepted mistakes were made in relation to Project Champion

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More than 200 so-called "spy cameras" installed in largely Muslim areas of Birmingham are being dismantled.

The cameras in Washwood Heath and Sparkbrook, some of which were hidden, were paid for with £3m of government funds earmarked for tackling terrorism.

An independent report was highly critical of the Project Champion scheme and West Midlands Police.

The force agreed in December they should be removed and said none of the 218 cameras had ever been switched on.

'Learning process'

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 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."

Members of the community said they were angry about the lack of consultation when the cameras were first installed in April 2010.

Moseley resident Steve Jolly dubbed them spy cameras and said the covert ones were a gross invasion of people's privacy and civil liberties.

He began campaigning for their removal and at a police authority meeting in October, Chief Constable Chris Sims said the cameras should be taken down to help regain the community's trust, at an estimated cost of £630,000.

Olympics role

Birmingham City Council carried out its own review into the handling of Project Champion.

Councillor Ayoub Khan, cabinet member for local services and community safety, said: "I am pleased that the recommendations of that report and the voice of the local community has been heard."

All 218 cameras are due to be removed this month.

West Midlands Police said a decision had yet to be made by the police authority about the future use of the cameras.

A force spokesman said one possibility was to use the cameras elsewhere in Birmingham.

"Before any decision is made on the future use of the cameras an appropriate consultation process with our communities will take place," he added.

But a Scotland Yard source told the BBC the equipment would form part of its counter terror preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games.

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