The police surveillance team had spotted their target: a 12-year-old boy with freckles and ginger hair. He was known to police for nuisance behaviour. They watched as he walked along a path with friends in the distance, before disappearing down a side street.
When the four boys emerged from the estate’s maze of alleyways, the patrol car was waiting. “Is this that operation, sir?” said one boy. “I don’t want to be on camera.” He already was…
Officers target a hit list of individuals who are “known to police”, and subject them to repeated surveillance. Last week the Guardian was given unprecedented access to the latest operation on the Five Links estate in Laindon, near Basildon.
For civil rights groups, the operation is an Orwellian technique that persecutes individuals who have committed no crime. But for police, the “in your face” approach works and, unlike covert surveillance, it requires no special authorisation.
Essex police claim there has been a “100%” drop in crime on target estates during recent operations. Their surveys indicate the so-called “harass a youth” strategy is popular in the community.
Some of the clever kids on the hit list have started filming the coppers – who are filming them. Which pisses them off pretty much the same as the kids.
Who knows where this all will end up, eh?