Thanet Star

Fears of invasive Council operation

Council led home invasion or just litter control - you tell me

Checking my inbox as I do quite often I saw an email from TV Choice. It included a TDC Press release about "operation clean sweep" eith the comment: First time I've heard of what seems to be invading people's homes and looking for illegal immigrants and fire hazards in the same initiative as litter! What do you think? Civil liberties issues????

Now this "operation clean sweep" is/was a targeted "multi partner agency" approach to dealing with problem areas. A bit of that "joined up thinking" so many have been longing for. As I understand it clean sweep works well when it is focused on one black spot. The result is that planning issues, derelicts, fire risks, illegal immigrants (or the housing of) and litter are all addressed along with anything else the authorities can find that they might not like.

The TDC press release tells us Operation Clean Sweep involves officers from Thanet District Council, Kent Police, the UK Border Agency, Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Kent County Council and aims to tackle a range of problems. This includes planning and housing issues and checking for suspected illegal immigrants or potential fire hazards.

This sounds very much like a "random inspection" by officers looking for benefit's cheats, illegal immigrants and anything the council can use against detractors. I am not a solicitor but I am confident that it is not legal to enter a person's home "on suspicion of fire hazards" nor are citizens required to undergo inspections of homes for anything other than reasonable suspicion of a crime or evidence thereof.

I'm all for law and order but I can see this as becoming very heavy handed if the "wrong sort of people" are driving it. It could, very easily, becoem a which hunt with many innocent people burned by the process.

Take for example those "real life police" shows where for entertainment we are shown police aggravating situations and then moaning about the hard job they have. What worries me is the unilateral power to object not to crime but to any way of life or person that the front line staff don't much like.

What has (quite rightly, I feel) worried the TV Choice crew is that (as the TDC press release says): Operation Clean Sweep has gone back into action this week (Monday 18 May - Friday 22 May), but this time it's targeting properties across the whole of Thanet.

This seems to me less like targeted problem solving and more like an illegal "warrant to enter people's home and have a good nose about". Worse yet this new mutated clean sweep will be properties across Thanet that are of interest to the various organisations involved which is management speak for allowing all agencies to go after whom ever they like.

Have you irritated TDC, rubbed the police the wrong way with your reporting, become known to social services or had reasons to complain a lot? I'd get you home ready for some hard core property search and human rights breaches.

If there was a crime suspected the police would have (or should have) acted already. If there were people at risk then social services and/or the police should have acted already. Were there breaches to planning law already known then the council should have acted long ago.

Street Scene Manager, Bob Spicer, said: Taking this new approach allows us the chance to perhaps target just one property in a road, a village or a town to see if there are issues that we need to be dealing with.

What this seems like is both an admission that all of Thanet is a black spot, that clean sweep has lost it's way and no longer knows how to continue and far, far worse than all that the organisations are getting together to use each other's power to act far outside of the original intended boundaries set up for the protection of the people they were intended to serve.

You can bet your bottom dollar that they will be all over Millmead and Newington estates, because, as we all know, poor people rarely vote anyway.

Anywhere that is not shiny and new will get a good going over and I am sure we will hear a lot about "arrests" and not a thing about prosecutions (something much harder to get as they require evidence and something that needs to be prosecuted).

The press release ends: During the week long operation, there will also be clean-ups at litter hot spots around the area.

I never knew that litter picking and immigration were issues with so much in common... oh wait, they're not.

Despite the unilateral "go anywhere - do anything" orders of clean sweep authorities still can not enter your home without a court-order/warrant or reasonable suspicion that a life is in danger or good reason to believe a crime is being carried out. Be sure to politly require they show you a warrant before they continue and don't just accept the common "I don't need a warrant, mate" that I've heard local officers say when they want their own way.

I must reiterate the being polite but firm. If an officer is not getting his own way he only needs you to raise your voice or pull a face and he'll have you face down in cuffs for "breach of the peace". Then he'll do what-so-ever he wants.

So if a gang of police and other agencies come to your home pulling some "random inspection" guff be polite, be firm and say "no thank you".

If they have a warrant then you should just stand aside and let them in but remember even so you have right to have another person present.

That's my feelings on the subject anyway. What about you?

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Public Comments

This Normal comment was left by Bertie Biggles [score: 0]:

Matt, absolutely spot on. Simon Moores, a couple of years ago highlighted the astonishing number of agencies that can now effectively force entrance to private property. Well done for ghighlighting the rights that we still have!
19/05/2009 14:41:38

This Normal comment was left by Matt B [score: 0]:

I do but try. I might not like Simon Moores very much but when he's right what can I say, he's right.
21/05/2009 09:36:46
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