Operation Snapshot [extract from :  Police Surveillance [Zine 34]

from Police Surveillance [Zine 34]by Alan Lodge

from ‘Police Surveillance [Zine 34]’Forward Intelligence Teams ‘FIT

Operation Snapshot was a further intelligence gathering exercise on Environmental Protesters and Travellers but now organised on a national basis. Also, the ‘Rave Scene’ was now included. All designed to establish a database of personal details, names, nicknames and vehicle registration numbers.

“Now every traveller’s vehicle is logged on computer, along with its whereabouts. An estimate of the number of persons in a convoy is included, together with details of any targeted individuals. Many of the vehicles and their occupants have been photographed”.

Undercover operations were carried out and yet more photographs taken. This information was used as a backbone for an on-going intelligence operation begun by the Southern Intelligence Unit (SIU), operated from Devizes in Wiltshire (fancy that! coincidentally, the same base as ‘Operation Solstice’). In the minutes of a meeting held at Devizes on March 30th 1993, the objectives of the operation included:

• Looking for a system to prevent Forces such as West Mercia (Castlemorton), being initially left bereft of intelligence. • Needed to develop a system whereby intelligence could be taken into the control room, and the most up-to-date intelligence was to hand. • To give Commanders immediate access to the most up-to-date intelligence, enabling them to develop the best strategy to combat the illegal activity which accompanied such events.

After a short period the Northern New Age Traveller Co-ordination Unit, designed to cover the north of Britain, was established and operated from Penrith in Cumbria.

The meeting was attended by constabulary representatives from Bedfordshire, Avon and Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Dyfed-Powys, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Kent,

Papers that told of this operation included this paragraph: “Detective Superintendent Fraser described how, if the need arose, an operator would be sent the scene with two lap-top computers. One for input and the other for information contained in the main database. Supt Fraser affirmed that the system could contain over ONE MILLION RECORDS”.

One million of course, far exceeds the numbers of people that have acquired criminal records from the groups in question. The rest of the capacity it clearly for chit-chat and intelligence, rather than evidence, hence my concern.

Among information about New Age travellers and ravers are some of the following examples: • Spiral Tribe, one of the best known rave organisations, are targeted for special attention. The bulletin notes their plans and asks: “Does this mean they are going to be more organised this year? If so, we will have to be alert!!!” • “Suffolk Police object to all applications for rave parties”, one bulletin says. Their officer suggested that: “fire services were useful in producing prohibition notices”. • Surrey constabulary’s policy is that: “raves will not happen, illegal or otherwise”. • Gloucestershire Police reported that an organisation called Fayre Events Limited has applied to Forest of Dean council for a nine-month site for travellers at a farm. “Believe it or not, this may well be granted” the bulletin says!

I was amused to read PC Keene delivering a final exhortation at the end of the meeting: “It’s yours, it’s new, let’s give it a go!”. I wonder how they’re getting on?

The paper requests: “Any information, no matter how small, on new age travellers or the Rave scene should be forwarded to the unit immediately …. Does this mean they are going to be more organised this year? If so, we will have to be alert!!!”

Liberty has challenged this police monitoring at the European Court of Human Rights. Andrew Puddephatt said: “To collate information on computers about individuals who have not committed offences and on the mere basis of their choice of lifestyle infringes on their right to privacy and freedom of expression. Targeting the whole of the travelling community is beyond the European Conventions’ limitations. Just because someone is a `new age traveller’ doesn’t mean that they are involved in crime”.

“The figures produced by the police under Snapshot and Nomad assert that, at most, there are only 2000 vehicles housing 8000 people on the New Traveller scene. Now that the principal and the practice of

domestic surveillance of British citizens (who have not been found guilty of any offence) has been established, it seems likely that other demonised groups will come to join Travellers and ravers under the watchful eye of ‘Big Brother’”

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