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Birmingham to remove controversial cameras

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Controversial surveillance cameras set up in two predominantly Muslim neighbourhoods will start to be removed on Monday, police said.

The 218 cameras, some of which were hidden, sparked anger from civil liberties campaigners and residents in Sparkbrook and Washwood Heath in Birmingham, where they were mainly erected.

The number plate recognition and CCTV cameras were financed under a counter-terrorism initiative but were initially marketed to locals as a general crime-prevention measure.

At a meeting of the West Midlands Police Authority in October, chief constable Chris Sims said the cameras should be pulled down in a bid to regain the trust of residents.

The recommendation followed an independent report’s criticism of the scheme, dubbed Project Champion.

West Midlands Police said work to take down the cameras and equipment would start on Monday, and all cameras will be removed this month.

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 have liaised closely with our communities to keep them informed of developments and when they can expect cameras to be removed from actual streets.

“I would like to stress that the cameras have never been operational.

“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.

“Our neighbourhood teams will now focus on forging closer links with local communities across the affected areas.”

Councillor Ayoub Khan (Lib Dem), Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for local services and community safety, said he was pleased that the recommendations of the review into the handling of Project Champion and the voice of the community had been heard.

“I am now keen to move on and to work closely with the police and all communities across the city for a joint effort in the fight against crime and keeping our streets safe,” he said.

Police said the final decision over the future use of the removed cameras will be made by the police authority, but no decision has yet been made.

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