Wednesday 5 December 2007

CCTV will save everything

How lazy have our local politicians become?

In yesterday's Cairns Post we read of a young lad getting nabbed and prosecuted for having a late night pee over the Pier (hardly a major crime in my book), and was caught red, I mean green handed, thanks to Cairns City Council's myriad of closed circuit cameras that are all over the streets of our unfair city.

In today's Post, we see it again. Mareeba Mayor Mick Borzi thinks that these are the answer to all things thuggery.

Back in 1994, prior to the last Local Bloody Elections, I asked the then three Mayoral candidates what they thought about safety and security in our city.

Bryan Law and Val Schier responded with answers about a city working cooperatively with those in need and areas at risk. Val Schier said that the debate wasn't all about cameras being put up all around the city.

Mayor Byrne was then running with a group called Cairns Unity, who's website no longer exists and nor does almost everyone in the original group, hence the slag around town he runs a Dis-unity team.

Byrne told me then that over the previous four years they increased the number of cameras or CCTV from 19 in the year 2000, to 41 in 2004. Now there are nearly 60 cameras dotted around the city, watching most nooks and crannies.

Now here's the astounding thing. In Brisbane, which I'm lead to believe has a slightly bigger population than Cairns, actually is 1,810,900, they have 16 CCTV's around the city.

While I was in Wellington last month, the Mayor introduced me to the city's Safe City Wellington Manager. With a population of nearly 400,000, guess how many cameras they have? They have 1 camera. That's right. One.

Local politicians that think the answer to solving crime is to spend millions on high-tech cameras and control rooms, all to nab a kid having a pee, then they really need to look at an approach that will work.
While there is a case for commercial places to operate such surveillance at the entrance to clubs, Council as a local authority should be engaging with their community closer than a spy camera. You can not do by sitting in front of 60 cameras in a sweaty control room eating burgers all night long.
Now here's a suggestion that anyone 40 or older will probably remember: send the police out walking around the beat, the town.. walk the streets.
One local success story on the Northern beaches has been placing community policeman in some of the suburbs. This works extremely well. With the presence of a visible enforcement who knows the streets, knows the people and who's new in the neighbourhood, it is what traditional policing is all about.

Wellington, which have recently been awarded the Safe City status, community staff walk the streets all the time. City Safe Walkers, emblazoned in bright yellow coats, are there to help and are the eyes and ears of a city. Daytime patrols help visitors, and at night they keep an eye out for trouble and help those in need, in a way a camera will never be able do.

A similar exercise is underway in Brisbane, who have taken on board the disturbances within the Queen Street Mall front on. There has been a marked decrease in reported crime and disturbances. Police are always very visible in the mall.

The old fashioned way of simply getting out in the community, talking to people and seeing what is happening is the best answer.

With the advent of non-verbal communications like the internet and text messaging etc , it seems to have fostered an attitude of disengaging local authorities from talking directly with it's people.
When was the last Community Council open forum you were invited to? Never. That's right, because there has hardly been one. Wait a minute, I do remember some Council "engagement stand" at Raintrees Shopping Centre on the day of the Election. Did you know about it?

Byrne told me back in 1994 that it was his Council's intention to increase the number of cameras to 80 around the city, along with 24 hour monitoring. This is currently housed on the Esplanade next to the Lagoon Pool. The facility is now too small for all the equipment and they will be looking for a bigger premises.
I don't know the figures as a phone call to Council will not release this kind of information. However, doing the maths on 57 cameras, staff to monitor it along with the recording equipment must easily be in the millions.

This all reeks of big brother surveillance instead of proactive community policing. It hardly changes attitude and although Mayor Mick, who heralds the first Council-funded camera in Mareeba, thinks this will help solve his town's night-time woes, it sets them on a slippery slope to disengaging themselves from their community.

When I chatted with Laurie Gabites, Wellington City's Safe City Manager, he was adamant that the key was not CCTV, it was all about being visible and proactive in the community.

"You need to be seen. It's about being available and there to support those that need it. We didn't and won't go down the route of putting up cameras around the place. They add no value," says Laurie Gabites.

In June last year, Wellington was the first capital city to be officially awarded the Safe City status by the WHO Safe Community. Mayor Kerry Prendergast says that the work of the Council and its partners -Accident Compensation Corporation, Capital & Coast District Health Board and the Police - has been recognised in this manner.
Wellington has invested in making their city safe to all those that use and visit the town, not only during the day but right around the clock.

The WHO Safe City project, works with cities around the world to meet benchmarks on community safety promotion. It's supported by the Department of Public Health Sciences Division of Social Medicine, Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

The Safe City concept also been embraced by Thuringowa and Townsville.

Richie Bates of the Cairns 1st team, is running for Council in the new Division 5 next March. He believes the focus of the current Council is wrong. "Some cameras may have a place, but for a city of our size, and with plans for 80 or more cameras around, this is not the answer," he says. "It smells of big brother and is hardly a way for a council to work with it's community in a proactive sense."

"Youth problems need to be addressed and with my strength of sport and recreation, I will be looking at areas where this can help them also."
In Wellington, the key elements of the Safe City programme are:-
  • 15 full-time equivalent City Safety (Walkwise) officers, operating 24/7 in the central city. Acting as ambassadors for the Council, they aim to prevent and deter crime and anti-social behaviour through their visibility.
  • Partnerships with government, Police, health and community agencies, and the business sector, especially the hospitality and security industries.
  • Increased events for youth, along with youth participation in the planning, participation and delivery of Council-led initiatives.
  • The integration of safety initiatives into “business as usual”. Examples include urban design, lighting, and the development of partnerships.
  • Injury prevention through projects such as the Council’s Liquor Licensing Policy and the inter-agency Liquor Liaison Group, the joint ACC and Walkwise initiative known as Shopsafe (aimed at reducing injuries amongst retail staff), and the Council’s SaferRoads project (aimed at reducing traffic accidents in the city by a third by 2010).
Since the introduction, the residents now say that nearly 100 percent felt safe in the city during the day, and around 70 percent of people felt reasonably or very safe in the central city at night.
As Mayor Byrne cruises the rustic Portsmith camps where many aboriginal reside in conditions different to the majority, adorned in his starch ironed shirt and out-of-touch tie, it displays how distant he is with such city problems.
Exactly like Howard, and 3 months to an election, he's rushing for ideas - or more to the point, he's running out of them.
It's about time that the only way to make Cairns a safer more accepting and inclusive city, is to throw out Kevin Byrne and his lot who support such an archaic way to make our city a safer place for us all to live in.


KitchenSlut said...

An innovative approach to both lifestyle and alcohol related crime is the move by Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, to reform licencing laws to promote more small bars for a more cosmopolitan atmosphere rather than large boozy places that pump drunks onto the streets.

There is also application for this approach to Qld as reported in the Courier Mail (but not the Cairns Post) and promoted by commentators such as Ben Eltham.

Anonymous said...

I'll vote for you, chef.

And how about coffee shops Amsterdam-style with local delicacies in convenient 10 gram bags?

Also, are you married at the moment? Is your husband the jealous type? What's your phone number and are oysters on the menu this weekend?

KitchenSlut said...

It seems the news had already passed me by when I posted the above comments with changes announced to Qld licencing laws this week for small boutique bars:

The potential benefits for lifestyle and alcohol related crime have been discussed in southern media for some time:,23739,22498952-5013511,00.html

Lets hope there is enough genuine reform to licencing laws to let this idea flourish.

Anonymous said...

The "boutique bar" idea is going to be a non-event.

While this idea works fine in other countries around the world, it can't work in a country where the retail rents are so outrageously high. A small shop space on the Esplanade ideal for this concept has a lease requiring over $110K/year rent! You can't build a boutique bar, encourage people to imbibe responsibly, and pay the bills.

Oh, and huzzah for the decision to order flouride into all the Queensland water. Queenslanders are looking pretty toothless, much worse than the British IMHO. Annette Sheppard can go suck an egg.