London: More than 100 counter-terrorism cameras installed in heavily Muslim areas of Birmingham will be temporarily obscured with bags after local residents expressed outrage over the surveillance, the local safety board said.
The Safer Birmingham Partnership said that some 150 cameras had been installed in neighbourhoods such as Washwood Heath, where more than half the population is of Pakistani origin. The cameras were set up surreptitiously using money drawn from the government`s counter-terrorism program – and when residents found there was a huge outcry.
The Safer Birmingham Partnership`s spokeswoman, who spoke anonymously in line with official policy, said yesterday it was law enforcement`s prerogative to place the cameras there.
"That`s not something we`d normally consult with the public about," she said.
She insisted that the cameras were aimed at more than just picking out potential terrorists -- pointing out that they could also be used to fight burglaries. But she acknowledged that many locals weren`t buying the argument and that many believed that the cameras were only targeting Muslims.
"There`s been a real high intensity of concern," she acknowledged.
As a result, the camera network would be temporarily suspended, and, for good measure, they would be covered in plastic sheaths.
"If we say that they`re not in use, we aren`t sure that people will believe us," she said.
Local authorities will now spend several weeks consulting with locals before attempting to reactivate the network.
Civil libertarians aren`t satisfied.
Corinna Ferguson, a legal officer at human rights group Liberty, said installing counter-terrorism cameras in a Muslim neighbourhood was discriminatory.
"Putting bags over cameras will not conceal the project`s true agenda," she said.