In the former Soviet Bloc, everyone had to be very careful, because no one ever knew if their neighbour was spying on them to report them to the government. Miss those good ol’ days? Welcome to Gordon Brown’s Britain.
As reported today in the Daily Telegraph, if you live in the UK, your neighbours may have been recruited by the local council to report on you. They may be your very young neighbours.
Children as young as eight have been recruited by councils to “snoop” on their neighbours and report petty offences such as littering, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.
The youngsters are among almost 5,000 residents who in some cases are being offered £500 rewards if they provide evidence of minor infractions.
One in six councils contacted by the Telegraph said they had signed up teams of “environment volunteers” who are being encouraged to photograph or video neighbours guilty of dog fouling, littering or “bin crimes”.
The “covert human intelligence sources”, as some local authorities describe them, are also being asked to pass on the names of neighbours they believe to be responsible, or take down their number-plates.
Ealing Council in West London said: “There are hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers, aged 8-10 years old, who are trained to identify and report enviro-crime issues such as graffiti and fly-tipping.”
Hundreds of Junior Streetwatchers. That’s just the ones working for one council.
Don’t confuse this with a neighborhood crime watch program. This is paying people to look into your garden to see if you have put your rubbish bins in the right place.
This comes at the same time that many councils are only collecting rubbish on a fortnightly basis, because they can not longer afford a weekly service, even though they are still collecting the same amount in council tax. Of course if rubbish has to be stored for twice as long, it is twice as likely that it will result in an infraction of local regulations – more money for the eight-year-old spies climbing over the fence for a peek.
This escalation in Britain’s growing surveillance state follows an outcry about the way councils are using powers originally designed to combat terrorism and organised crime to spy on residents. In one case, a family was followed by council staff for almost three weeks after being wrongly accused of breaking rules on school catchment areas.
It also emerged last month that around 1,400 security guards, car park attendants and town hall staff have been given police-style powers including the right to issue on-the-spot fines for littering, cycling on the pavement and other offences.
Big Brother really is watching.