07/01/2014

Police Respond To 'Benefits Street' Row

West Midlands Police has said it could launch an investigation following claims that a Channel 4 documentary about benefit claimants revealed elements of criminal activity.

The first episode of the show, Benefits Street, aired on Monday night and shortly afterwards, prompted hundreds of comments from those concerned about the content.

The series aims to focus on residents living in Birmingham's James Turner Street area and is said to "reveal the reality of life on benefits".

In response to the comments, West Midlands Police released a statement.

Superintendent Danny Long, from Birmingham Police, said: "We have been aware for some time that a production company has been filming in the James Turner Street area of Winson Green on behalf of Channel 4; however we have not been actively working with the makers of 'Benefits Street'.

"Like many people across the country, we saw the footage broadcast on the programme for the first time last night. Throughout the programme and in the hours that have followed, we have been inundated with comments from members of the public, many of whom are concerned about elements of the show which showed criminal activity.

"We are currently assessing whether the content of the programme can assist us as part of any ongoing investigations or indeed whether any new inquiries should be launched in light of the material that has been broadcast. This work is ongoing and viewers will have seen for themselves that my officers have already been actively involved with some of the individuals featured.

"The Winson Green area of Birmingham is a diverse and vibrant community and the Soho neighbourhood policing team – which covers James Turner Street - enjoys a very positive relationship with local residents and community groups.

"Neighbourhood officers work alongside the area housing associations, partner organisations and the council on a daily basis to address the concerns of residents around issues of crime and anti-social behaviour – with local people very supportive of police action to tackle community safety issues."

In a further twist, the Birmingham Mail spoke to residents on James Turner Street on Monday who claim they had been tricked into appearing on the show – which they were told would highlight a community spirit in the neighbourhood. They argued that they had instead been made to look like they are lazy, irresponsible parents and take drugs.

(JP)

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