Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Thursday, 1 February 2007

Leaflet bid for reassurance

By Jenny Percival
BBC News, Birmingham

Police are handing out 5,000 leaflets in Birmingham offering reassurances about a series of raids in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap a Muslim member of the armed forces.

Ambi Dadar, a police community support officer (PCSO) with West Midlands Police, is handing out leaflets to shop owners and pedestrians on the busy Alum Rock Road, which is close to some of the addresses which were raided.

Pcso Ambi Dadar hands out a leaflet to a passer-by
The leaflet includes information and telephone numbers

The leaflets in her hands and those of her female colleague are the first 300 of about 5,000 that will also be distributed to people in Sparkhill, Washwood Heath, Kingstanding and Edgbaston.

Many in the community have complained that the police were "heavy-handed" in the way in which they arrested suspects.

The leaflets aim to reassure people, who may feel "vulnerable and anxious", that the arrests are targeting suspected criminals, rather than particular communities or faiths.

They have been translated into Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali and Urdu and offer a list of police numbers people can call with information about the alleged plot or with concerns about race-hate crime.

Wise move

People are staying away from the streets
Rizwan Hussain

Pcso Dadar is reluctant to say too much.

"I'm here to be seen handing out leaflets, I can't really talk to the press," she says.

Several camera crews dance around her and try not to knock into pedestrians, mobile phone stalls and racks of clothes.

Some shops said the police asked them several hours in advance whether they could leaflet their premises.

This proves to be a wise move when one man witnessing the media circus shouts: "They're (the police) not coming in my shop."

It is easy to dismiss the event as a publicity stunt, but local people appear keen to welcome anything that will ease any tensions with the authorities.

Rizwan Hussain, 27, hopes the leaflet will make a difference, although he's also concerned about the loss of business at his family's carpet shop.

"We'd normally be really busy at this time but it's been quiet since the arrests, people are staying away from the streets, it's not good for business," he says.

"People are confused by what has happened, they can't yet make sense of the questions in their heads.

"The leaflets may help. Maybe anybody holding back on information will be encouraged to contact the police."

It will be very damaging if they're innocent
Mohammed Zahoor

Most people in Alum Rock seem to accept, with reluctance, that the arrests appear to be necessary.

But the underlying fear is of what happens to community relations if the men are released without charge.

At Omar's footwear shop, 30-year-old Mohammed Zahoor sits in the back office, which is decorated with a map of Pakistan and a prayer timetable.

"I hope it (the leaflets) will work but I'm not sure they're necessary," he says.

"If these people are guilty of terrorism, the police have done the right thing, but it will be very damaging if they're innocent."

Mazher Syed, a voluntary worker at Ludlow Road mosque in Alum Rock, attended a meeting with local police officers about the repercussions of the arrests.

He still believes the raids were more dramatic than they needed to be.

"Most of the people arrested were business people, shop owners, they (the police) could have gone to their shops when they opened at seven, instead they made such a huge thing of it," he says.

"I'm not satisfied with the way they have handled things but for now we have to let them do their job."



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