A Conservative council has been criticised for recruiting 2,000 residents to snitch on their neighbours for litter infringements and anti-social behaviour.
Harrow Council in north west London wants 2,000 people - one for every 100 residents - to
sign up as a Neighbourhood Champion and report minor crimes, anti-social behaviour, litter and vandalism.
Campaigners have accused them of recruiting an army of snoopers and said the scheme would lead to less trust and more
The council spokesman claimed they wanted to restore old-fashioned community values .
If the £70,000 plan is approved this week, officials will begin recruiting volunteers with the aim of starting the scheme
Each one will be given training from town hall officials and police officers and issued with a manual setting out their role. Once the scheme is up and running, they will be given access to a council website to record their reports.
A council spokesman said they wanted the volunteers to be a point of contact for the council and report abandoned cars, graffiti and other problems.
Four fifths of residents questioned in a survey backed the idea of street champions for
But Alex Deane, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said the Orwellian scheme would create an army of council snoopers .
He said: So now councils are trying to get us to spy on one another. If
they're successful it will lead to even less trust and ever more surveillance. An Orwellian big brother culture depends on everyone spying on everyone else - just as Harrow has planned.
Sabina Frediani, campaigns co-ordinator at human rights
group Liberty, said: Everyone should feel able to report suspicions of crime without any special badge of approval from the local authority. But as the recent abuses of surveillance powers demonstrate, giving some citizens extra responsibilities is
difficult and potentially dangerous. Civic duty is one thing but policing is best left to the professionals.
Members of the British public will receive £500 rewards to shop their neighbours via telephone hotlines under a scheme announced today.
The handouts will go to the first 1,000 people who provide tip-offs that lead to an unlawfully
occupied home being repossessed.
The government plans are aimed at the illegal sub-letting of social housing. In London, £250,000 will be available in rewards.
As well as hotlines, special websites and email addresses will be set
up to allow informants to pass on their suspicions, while there will also be publicity campaigns to encourage reporting.
Ministers say the cash incentives will help ensure that all council and housing association homes are lived in by those
genuinely in need.
Ministers say the scheme, which will cost £4 million, will help tackle other problems such as prostitution, drug production, illegal immigration and anti-social behaviour that can occur in sub-let housing.
critics said the payments were a further dangerous example of ministers encouraging unwarranted snooping. Dylan Sharpe of campaign group Big Brother Watch claimed the move showed the Government was creating an army of citizen snoopers .
Councils across Britain have recruited thousands of citizen snoopers to report what their propaganda calls environmental crime .
According to the PR they target dog foulers, litter louts and neighbours who fail to sort their rubbish
properly. The volunteers spy on their neighbours and are encouraged to take photos of environmental crime and send them in with location details for a rapid response.
They are given hand-held GPS computers for the task or phone cards to
cover the cost of using their own devices. Evidence gathered this way is sometimes used in criminal prosecutions.
There are already 9,831 snoopers signed up, a 17% increase on the number two years ago. A further 1,310 are set to be recruited and
trained as part of schemes run by 18 councils.
Volunteers often apply to become what councils euphemistically call street champions through council websites, but many have also been lured by recruitment drives in local newspapers.
Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, said:
It should be deeply troubling for us all that councils seem not content with their own snooping and are now recruiting members of the public to assist them. If a crime is committed, it is the police who should be
involved, not local residents given hi-tech gadgets by councils, many of whom rarely pass up an opportunity to invade our privacy or hand out spurious fines.
These individuals operate with little or no training, and there is no
evidence to suggest it helps combat environmental crime. Councils seem to be unable to tell the difference between asking the public for help and getting the public to do their snooping for them.
Hillingdon Council in London boasts
the biggest street champions scheme with 4,850 volunteers, who record an average of 1,000 incidents a month.