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”.
Presumably a bin ‘crime’ is when someone leaves the bin out an hour early. An acquaintance is a bin criminal – apparently she should have left the bin out at the ‘legal’ time, and consequently been made late for work.
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.”
I hope the people answering the telephone and email have been cleared to work with children.
Other local authorities recruit adult volunteers through advertisements in local newspapers, with at least 4,841 people already patrolling the streets in their spare time.
Some are assigned James Bond-style code numbers, which they use instead of their real names when they ring a special informer’s hotline. …
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, described the recruitment of children as “downright sinister”.
He said: “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. …
The [Stasi] infiltrated almost every aspect of GDR life. In the mid-1980s, a network of civilian informants, Inoffizielle Mitarbeiter (IMs, Unofficial Collaborators), began growing in both German states; by the time East Germany collapsed in 1989, the MfS employed an estimated 91,000 employees and 300,000 informants. About one of every 50 East Germans collaborated with the MfS — one of the most extensive police infiltrations of a society in history. In 2007 an article in BBC stated that “Some calculations have concluded that in East Germany there was one informer to every seven citizens.”  Additionally, MfS agents infiltrated and undermined West Germany’s government and spy agencies.
Yes it does feel like that at times.
I wonder, however, if the Stasi would have fined someone the equivalent of £75 for dropping a bit of sausage roll?
In April, Hull council officials fined a young mother £75 for dropping a piece of sausage roll while trying to feed her four-year-old daughter. Sarah Davies, 20, refused to pay and the matter when to magistrates court where it was dismissed.
Where are we going with this, and where do we want to end up?