Saturday, 6 September 2008

Latest Stasi Nonsense?

Today's Torygraph cover tells a familiarly depressing story, and JuliaM does her usual with it.

The interesting thing is the choice of glamorous names for these networks of little spies, such as "Street Scene Champions". Immediately you de-mystify and make ordinary something which is quite extraordinary: children paid to spy by the state.

The key question about it, apart from how the operation of justice works when it is solely the word of a minor against that of an adult (I think I can guess), is whether such initiatives will actually get the fly-tippers and yobs who deface our towns and cities.

Somehow I think I know the types of people who will be caught by all this.

Call it intuition.

This, however, is what Harlow Council has to say on its website:

Street Scene Champions project initially aimed at young people age 11 to 13 years who have shown an interest in taking care of the environment and improving the appearance of local areas. Street Scene Champions are encouraged to report static anti-social behaviour to Contact Harlow and take part in community project days which include things such as pond clearing, coppicing, clearing overgrown areas and planting new shrubs and plants etc. In return for their community spirit and positive citizenship they receive credit’s on a high street gift card which can be exchanged for school equipment, books, DVD’s etc. Participants are also given the opportunity to take part in training days that will equip them with valuable skills such as First Aid, fire and water safety and anti-bullying etc.

Clearly they don't teach them the art of apostrophes. Still, not much to object to there, provided that this is in fact what happens. Normally in this NuLab world things turn out to be a little more "complex" than they appear.

But of course the money shot of the Torygraph article is this:

Many of the town halls said they did not encourage their volunteers to confront offenders or collect evidence, for their own safety.

But Bromley Council in Kent offers up to £500 for information that leads to a conviction.

Crawley Borough Council in West Sussex said its 150 Streetcare Champions were asked to "report on individuals if known". Bolton Council said its Green Inspectors must "note any relevant information such as registration numbers" if they see criminal activity.

Aha. It is rather less innocent than it appears. Conviction by word of mouth: the enactment of vendettas and mischief, the promotion of constant surveillance.

And will the violent, or the dangerous get convicted? Nah.

A commenter on the original Torygraph article writes:

To encourage and assist any child to spy and report on so-called �criminal activity� is in direct contravention of the HASAW Act 1974 as no person under the age of 18 years and 1 day may be placed in a position that may lead to a risk to their heath, safety and welfare, whether for profit or not.

This would apply to the act of spying of course. Not the reporting of "static" problems.

No comments: