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Rights group criticises 'Asbo TV'

BBC | January 10 2006

Comment: This combined with the government's encouragement for Londoners to report their neighbors for suspicious activity, of which potential signs of terrorism include owning a vehicle, living in a house or getting a refund on a credit card, fuse the infrastructure of a classic total surveillance state, with civilian tattle-tale squads forming the modern say Stasi.

Civil rights campaigners have voiced concern about a new channel allowing households in east London to monitor local CCTV cameras, dubbed "Asbo TV".

The project will enable Shoreditch residents to compare suspicious characters with an on-screen "rogue's gallery" from their living-room.

Viewers can then alert police to anyone in breach of an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) or committing a crime.

Asbo Concern said the scheme was a "gimmick" and would be open to abuse.

Fear of crime

The CCTV channel is part of a £12m online community network project being set up in the area under a 10-year government-funded regeneration programme in one of the country's most deprived areas.

About 1,000 residents in the Haberdasher and Charles Square estates will pilot the scheme from March before it is rolled out to more than 20,000 households across Shoreditch, giving viewers access to some 400 cameras.

They will be asked to pay about £3.50 a week for the full service, which includes cheap local calls, a free set-top box providing digital TV, public service channels and high-speed internet access.

Atul Hatwal, strategy director of the Shoreditch Digital Bridge, said while crime in the area has fallen, the community safety channel will address the fear of crime.

"The scheme aims to empower members of the local community to support police in tackling crime and supporting each other in making Shoreditch a safer place," he said.

But Matt Foot, co-ordinator for Asbo Concern, which campaigns against the misuse of the Asbo, said the channel was "a complete waste of money".

"While the rest of the project sounds quite positive, the community safety channel is a gimmick," he said. "There are professionals trained to monitor CCTV and it should be left to them.

"Here, you will have a situation of people spying on each other, which raises concerns about vigilantism and vulnerable people such as children being bullied on CCTV."

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