Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Monday, 9 November 2009

Neighbours scheme 'not snooping'

Litter dumping is an anti-social activity the council wants residents to report

A London council has denied that a plan to recruit residents to report petty crime and anti-social behaviour is a licence to snoop.

Harrow Council wants 2,000 people - one for every 100 residents - to sign up and report problems such as littering and vandalism.

A spokesman said it wanted to restore "old-fashioned community values".

The human rights body Liberty said: "Civic duty is one thing, but policing is best left to professionals."

Council website

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 by town hall officials and police officers and issued with a manual setting out their role.

Once the scheme is operating, they will be given access to a council website to deliver reports.

A council spokesman said the authority wanted the volunteers to be a point of contact for the council and report abandoned cars, graffiti and other problems.

Everyone should be able to report suspicions of crime without any special badge of approval from the local authority

Four-fifths of residents questioned in a survey backed the idea of "street champions" for every neighbourhood.

Councillor Susan Hall said: "This is about extending more influence to our residents to help us deliver cleaner and safer streets.

"We have already invested in anti-social behaviour and cleaning teams, but the reality is that we are not always in a position to know when problems suddenly crop up.

"I really believe the Neighbourhood Champions network will help us to deliver cleaner and safer streets.

"We often talk about the loss of community spirit in our neighbourhoods - I think this is a great way of reclaiming some of that."

Liberty's campaigns coordinator Sabina Frediani said: "Everyone should be 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."

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