Benefits Street: Birmingham documentary 'encouraged crime'

Viewers reacted furiously to the programme on Twitter while residents said they were portrayed in an unfair light

Bosses of a documentary about a Birmingham street have been criticised for portraying residents in a bad light and encouraging criminal behaviour.

Benefits Street, centred on James Turner Street in Winson Green, featured interviews with people who admitted cultivating drugs and stealing.

Start Quote

They told us that they wanted to capture the community spirit of James Turner Street and show the positive of that but all they have done is show the negative”

End Quote Dean Oakes Featured in programme

A Channel Four producer said people should watch the entire series to get a complete picture of the street.

Police are looking at the footage plus Tweets directed at the show's stars.

James Turner Street resident Anna Korzen told the BBC she was shocked when she watched the first episode of the programme on Monday.

"People are angry because of the way it showed us up," she said.

"It's a bad image.

"People will recognise us from Benefits Street but some people are working here and some people are genuinely ill."

'Totally irresponsible'

Dean Oakes, who appeared on Monday's episode, said: "I'm fuming. I called them (the programme makers) this morning to say I don't want to be in it anymore and I'm waiting for them to call me back.

Anna Korzen Anna Korzen said she was shocked when she watched the programme

"They told us that they wanted to capture the community spirit of James Turner Street and show the positive of that but all they have done is show the negative."

Soho councillor Chaman Lal said: "I am very angry because they have glorified the wrong lifestyle and also they have encouraged criminal behaviour.

"It is totally irresponsible."

People took to Twitter to vent their frustration after the programme, with some saying they hoped the residents featured "die".

Det Supt Insp Danny Long, from Birmingham Police, said they had 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," he said.

'Many different takes'

But other people on Twitter voiced their frustration at the programme's portrayal of the benefits issue and of the poor and working classes.

Independent columnist Owen Jones, author of the book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class, tweeted: "Most social security goes to pensioners who pay in all life. Most benefits go to working people. 6.5m chasing full-time work.

"Where's the TV show about low-paid workers struggling on in-work benefits or unemployed people desperate for work?"

Benefits Street producer Kieran Smith said he did not think they had stigmatised the street.

"People need to be careful about drawing too many conclusions from last night's programme," he said.

"There are many different takes on James Turner and if you stick with the series you'll get that."

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