Melon Farmers Original Version

Stasi Britain

Recruiting an army of snitches and snoopers

17th November

Update: Stasi Britain...

Councils employ neighbourhood snitches to spy on residents

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.


11th August

Update: Suspiciously Closed Curtains...

ASA bans police advert suggesting that perfectly common and normal behaviour is suspicious

A radio ad for the Anti-Terrorist Hotline stated The following message is brought to you by Talk Sport and the Anti-Terrorist Hotline. The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself. He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions. We all have a role to play in combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline. If you suspect it, report it .

1. Ten listeners, who believed the ad encouraged people to report law-abiding citizens who acted in the way described in the ad, challenged whether the ad was offensive.

2. 16 listeners, who believed the ad could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours, challenged whether the ad was harmful.

3. Nine listeners challenged whether the ad made an undue appeal to fear.

ASA Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that the ad described a man who always paid with cash, did not speak to his neighbours and kept his curtains closed during the day. We noted that description was based on behavioural trends identified by the police, and that the ad suggested that, when taken together, those behaviours could be grounds for suspicion.

However, we considered that the ad could also describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community and we considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive. We also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described. We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence.

2. Not upheld

We noted that the ad conveyed its message in a measured and reasonable tone, and we therefore considered the ad was not sensationalist. We also noted that it did not suggest that listeners approach, harass or victimise anyone about whom they might have concerns, but instead asked listeners to call a police hotline. We considered that the ad did not encourage or condone harassment or victimisation and we therefore concluded that the ad was not harmful.

3. Not upheld

We noted that the intention of the ad was to raise awareness of the planning stages of terrorist attacks and to engage the public in reporting anything they might find suspicious. We also noted that the ads message was presented in a measured tone, which we considered was unlikely to provoke alarm.

Notwithstanding our concerns, in point 1 above, that the ad could cause serious offence, we noted that the ad stated that the behaviours described may mean nothing, but together could add up to you having suspicions , and we considered that that conditional wording was proportionate and unlikely to cause anxiety for listeners about the extent of terrorist activity in their neighbourhood. We therefore concluded that the ad did not make an undue appeal to fear.


15th March

Update: Snitch Britain...

British government calls on people to report neighbours who keep themselves to themselves

A new government commercial currently running on one of Britain's most popular radio stations is selling one thing -- fear -- by encouraging Londoners to report their neighbors as terrorists if they use cash, enjoy their privacy, or even close their curtains.

curtain twitcher

  That chap at no 17 has
closed his curtains again!

The advertisement, produced in conjunction with national radio outlet TallkSport, promotes the anti-terrorist hotline and encourages people to report individuals who don't talk to their neighbors much, people who like to keep themselves to themselves, people who close their curtains, and people who don't use credit cards.

This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions, states the voice on the ad, before continuing We all have a role to play in combating terrorism (we're all indentured stasi informants for the government).

If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential anti-terrorist hotline... if you suspect it, report it, concludes the commercial.


22nd February

Update: Beware of Council Workers...

Edinburgh trains workers to snitch on anything unusual they see in people's houses

Edinburgh City Council has begun sending staff on courses designed to train them to look out for anything that might resemble terrorist activity .

According to the Edinburgh Evening News:

Staff sources say that the sessions have included being told how to spot anything suspicious, and being asked to report anything no matter how trivial to police, such as quantities of empty bottles of bleach.

Support workers who visit a range of clients in their own home including vulnerable groups, people with addictions and elderly people, have been among the first to get the training.

Concierges, community safety teams and other front-line staff across the council are also to be sent on the sessions, which are hosted by police as part of the Home Office's counter-terrorism strategy.

This is disgraceful fear-mongering that erodes trust in society and encourages spying, snooping and suspicion. A sad state of affairs.


3rd December

Update: Stasi Britain...

£500 reward for snitching on sub-letting neighbours

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.

But 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 .


18th November

Update: Stasi Britain...

North London council to recruit 2000 neighbourhood snoopers

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 surveillance .

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 next year.

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 every neighbourhood.

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.


21st October

Update: Plumbing into the UK Spy Network...

Hide your BDSM and porn DVDs when tradesmen call

Tradesmen working for UK local authorities are to be asked to report signs of child abuse and neglect as they visit the homes of council tenants.

The plumbers, electricians and carpenters will be issued with a checklist of signs to look out for. Training will last just half a day.

But critics believe the use of workers untrained in such a highly complex field could backfire. They say that children who are at real risk could be overlooked because social workers with already bulging caseloads could be bombarded with baseless complaints.

One of the first councils to pilot the scheme will be Lincoln, which later this month is expected to approve the policy under which about 200 front-line staff will be given four hours' training on child abuse, with 600 backroom or office workers attending even shorter awareness briefings.

The front-liners include any employee who visits homes as part of his or her job, including rent officers. Council-employed sports coaches and leisure-centre staff, who come into daily contact with children, will also be trained.

Child welfare charity AIMS condemned the idea as 'ludicrous'. Its spokeswoman Jean Robinson said: This will just lead to a huge increase in the number of false cases being reported and you won't be able to find the needle because the haystack will be so vast.

This is a highly complex area and not one for amateurs. Of course, if anyone, council employee or not, saw a child who was clearly being beaten or starved, their basic humanity would hopefully lead them to report it but the idea of council plumbers and carpenters being semi-trained and seen as some sort of child-abuse spies by the people they are supposed to be serving is rather sinister.


8th September

Update: Stasi Cadets...

UK Councils employ children as snitches and snoopers

Children from eight years old 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.

Harlow Council in Essex said: We currently have 25 Street Scene Champions who work with the council. They are all aged between 11 to 14. They are encouraged to report the aftermath of enviro-crimes such as vandalism to bus shelters, graffiti, abandoned vehicles, fly-tipping etc. They do this via telephone or email direct to the council.

Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, described the recruitment of children as downright sinister. We are deeply troubled by these developments they are straight out of the Stasi copybook. There is a combination of ever-stricter rules and ever more Draconian attempts to control people.

Councils are using anti-terrorist legislation for the tiniest of things, like the people who put out their bins early, and the threats of fines and prosecutions combine to constitute fleecing the people the councils are meant to be serving


7th September

 Offsite: Let us End this Punitive Regime...

Our obsession with crime is crushing our freedoms

See article from


1st September

Update: Call to all Curtains Twitchers...

Home Office to employ neighbourhood snitches and snoopers

You're nicked
That'll be £80

Councils are recruiting 'citizen snoopers' to report litter louts, dog foulers and even people who fail to sort out their rubbish properly.

The 'environment volunteers' will also be responsible for encouraging neighbours to cut down on waste.

The move comes as local authorities dish out £100 fines to householders who leave out too much rubbish or fail to follow recycling rules.

It will deservedly fuel fears that Britain is lurching towards a Big Brother society, following the revelation this week that the Home Office is extending some police powers to council staff and private security guards.

Critics said the latest scheme could easily be abused and encourage a culture of bin spies and curtain twitchers.

Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: Snooping on your neighbours to report recycling infringements sounds like something straight out of the East German Stasi's copybook. The last thing people want to pay for is an army of busybodies peering through their net curtains at their neighbours as they put out their rubbish.'

Recruitment adverts appealing for the unpaid environmental volunteers have appeared across the country in recent months.

In Hampshire, Eastleigh council wants locals to monitor local environmental quality and report 'issues' involving recycling and waste. In East London, Tower Hamlets is recruiting volunteers for a crackdown on reluctant recyclers. Other councils are expected to launch similar schemes.

Officially, the volunteers are not encouraged to spy on neighbours or report them. But councils are unlikely to ignore tip-offs.

Eastleigh has already taken on around a dozen snoops who answered an advert in a council newsletter which said: Volunteers will be involved in reporting issues in their area such as recycling, waste, fly-tipping, graffiti, dog fouling and abandoned vehicles.

Tower Hamlets calls its volunteers environment champions. According to the council they report on a number of environmental crimes, issues and concerns, such as graffiti, dumped rubbish and abandoned cars.


29th August

Smith's Stasi Britain...

Home Office to empower council jobsworths with some police powers

You're nicked
That'll be ฃ80

Private security guards and town hall jobsworths are being armed with sweeping police-style powers, it has emerged.

For a few hundred pounds, state and private sector employees can receive Home Office accreditation.

This allows them to hand out fines for a raft of offences, from dropping litter to riding a bike on the pavement. They can also stop cars to check their tax discs, seize alcohol from underage drinkers and demand people's names and addresses.

 The uniformed, badged army of snoopers will become a vital part of the 'extended police family', ministers say.

But privacy campaigners have dubbed them Home Secretary Jacqui Smith's 'Stasi' after the East German secret police.

Phil Booth of NO2ID said: This is a sinister move towards a Stasi snooper state in which jobsworths are devolved the powers of the police - including the right to demand you identify yourself.

Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve added: This is a consequence of the Government's obsession with policing on the cheap as well as their staggering complacency towards the extension of surveillance by an increasing amount of different bodies.

The public will be angered that the Home Office is seeking to take serious powers that should be appropriately applied by the police and encouraging them to be given not just to local councils, but also to private firms.

The public want to see real police on the streets discharging these responsibilities, not private firms who may use them inappropriately - including unnecessarily snooping on the lives of ordinary citizens.

Details of the new army of police-style officers emerged in Home Office papers released today. There are already 1,400 town hall and private sector staff accredited, and ministers want a dramatic expansion of the scheme.

Called the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme, it allows the likes of security guards, park wardens, car park attendants and store detectives to boost their roles if they undergo training and pay a small fee to their local police force.

They can wear a special badge, and a uniform approved by the local chief constable. At present, they are wearing their employer's existing uniform with the badge sewn on, but police chiefs could eventually be encouraged to decide on a standard uniform across their force area, the Home Office said.

It also revealed that chief constables are reviewing the scheme, a move which could lead to even greater powers being handed out.


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