Monday 30 August 2010

73 snooping cameras in Cairns, with more on the way

Councils all over Queensland are bloody keen to spy on their residents and visitors, and are spending millions along the way.

There's 73 closed circuit cameras around Cairns.

Most are located in the CBD, and the Cairns Regional Council has discussed plans for more. A mobile camera, that was for a time located on Collins Avenue, Edgehill to prevent plant theft, failed to work. Staff who have talked with CairnsBlog, say the mobile device doesn't work effectively.

Images captured can be often be minor, An English tourist appeared before the Cairns Court last year when a camera caught him relieving himself over the wharf in the early hours of the morning.

An UK report from Scotland Yard suggests that only 3% of crime is discovered via CCTV.

Around Queensland, Ipswich has 200 cameras, with plans to install m
ore "every year." Logan has 150, Townsville 139, Gold Coast 107, Moreton Bay 100, Brisbane (CBD and Fortitude Valley) 65, Sunshine Coast 17, Gladstone 10, and four in Mackay.

Installation is increasing, supported by massive government grants and security equipment becoming cheaper.

The Australian Council of Civil Liberties disagreed with the Police who say cameras deter crime, and are expecting a public revolt. There have been now numerous incidents over recent years in the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW where monitoring staff are using the system to perve of people for sexual gratification.

"We will be installing another 46 cameras if a $150,000 State Government grant is approved," Mackay councillor David Perkins says. Beenleigh, in Logan City Council, will install a heap of cameras to monitor public areas and the local railways, with a new $400,000 grant.

There is a plan to install 40 cameras on the Sunshine Coast for $900,000, and an increase to the Gold Coast's 107 cameras, along with more for Brisbane, however, recently there has been debate to remove cameras in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall, following many complaints of spying.

I first raised this subject in 2007, and again in June 2008 after a meeting I had with the Mayor of Wellington, Kerry Prendergast, and her Council's Safe City officer. Wellington ditched almost all their expensive CCTV cameras, along with the millions it cost to monitor them and their team of donut-eating staff.

And what did they do? They put a series of City Safe community staff on the street, that doubled as information folk for visitors. This didn't stop the Wellington capital being designated a World Health Organization Safe Community.

The massive monitoring operation for Cairns, is controlled from the Inner City Facilities office, on the Esplanade (the key is under the mat).

In 2000 we have just 19 cameras, which increased to 41 in 2004. By 2007 there were 60 cameras dotted around the city. We now have 73, and these has recently been upgraded to transmit better images.

The State government has this week announced it will spend $1m on cameras and other security at rail travel centres and stations across regional Queensland.

"The security upgrade includes installation of additional cameras, upgrade of alarm systems and safety recording systems at various locations throughout regional Queensland," Desley Boyle MP
Member for Cairns said.

Councillor Di Forsyth, who attended the Safer Communities meeting in Christchurch in 2008, is an advocate for the Wellington model, whereby cameras are replaced with staff patrolling the street, however acknowledges that there is no current plan to do this. She also says that CCTV can pick up areas where police can't be.

"I think having people on the street is far better, but you can't have people everywhere. You also can't have cameras everywhere either," Di Forsyth says. "They're only as good as you've got people watching them 24/7," Councillor Forsyth told CairnsBlog. "Or late at night when there may be trouble. They do seem to be working here in Cairns and are able to alert Police to where there's scuffles or where people are mis-behaving."

"The cameras are like having extra staff [for the police]," Forsyth says. "I know some places, like Brisbane mall, they've been taking them out progressively, as people say they're very costly and some local councillors saying they're against civil liberties and an invasion of privacy."

Forsyth says that the Police say that the Council cameras are helpful, and cites the late night incidents that had occurred in John Eagan Park.

"Young people where walking through private properties and using their outdoor furniture," Forsyth said. "They would be very noisy and there all hours of the night. Council upped patrols, and child safety workers from the Department of communities involved, the substance abuse group, and now it's pretty much all over there now."

"In a lot of cases cameras just show you what's going on, but they're not going to solve anything. You've actually got to get there and work with whatever is going on. It was a very successful outcome for John Eagan Park, to not install cameras," Diane Forsyth says.

Council will look at installing lights at the Grove Street park, as they have done on a number of community parks, including GlenomaPark, Brinsmead on the Western Arterial Road. During the election campaign, Warren Entsch offered $83,000 to install CCTV cameras in the Grove Street park, linked to Council’s monitoring network.

Next month, Councillor Forsyth will spend the night at the camera monitoring room, to see first hand how the operation works.


Robert Hughes said...

As many German tourists visit Cairns, it is timely to state that such cameras are illegal in German streets, although they are installed in shopping malls. Germans tend to object to such surveillance measures. In Berlin, for example, where there are few cameras on public transport, the windows have been scratched beyond recognition. Yet the locals seem to prefer this to the option of having CCTV everywhere. Finally, there is currently a massive protest within Germany concerning Google's current roll-out of 360 degree street photos. My bottom line is that I suspect German tourists would tend to find Cairns' CCTV cameras in streets objectionable.

City Gal on the Esplanade said...

The mere fact that some city Councillors (a CBD one!!!???) could have access top CCTV images,.. is a real worry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alison Alloway said...

Mike, what did the city of Wellington do at night? Surely they wouldn't have kept their "City Safe Community Staff" working at night?
Incidentally, I think having a few "city safe" staff patrolling the streets of Cairns, offering assistance to visitors etc like they have at the International Airport, is a good idea. Tourists need to know things like where are the public toilets, bus terminals, taxi ranks, nearest medical, dental surgery, money exchange etc. Locals also need assistance with directions!

Michael P Moore said...

Yes Alison, CitySafe officers council-employed in Wellington, work in tandem with local police and security. They carry communication devices to relay trouble and highlight areas where police or other assistance are required.

SO in addition to a tourist-visitor-friendly street helper... they perform a valuable role with real eyes-on the streets, something that cameras will never do.

Alison Alloway said...

Mike, I'm sold on the idea. When I worked in the public service, our union innovated with a position similar to that of a "major domo"...a person who greeted clients, sorted out simple enquiries, helped invalid and disabled people, mothers with babies, directed people to toilets, told people to behave themselves etc. This resolved so much of the angst and conflict we customer service officers had been receiving. There is nothing as good as people skills!! No matter how sophisticated a piece of technology is, it cannot replace a human being in interacting with other human beings.
I wonder if this idea therefore could be passed on to the CRC, or is it now much too late?

CBD Warrior said...

Nice manipulation, Mike. Use of words "perve", "snooping" and other opinionated descriptions. I see nothing in what Cr. Forsyth has said that suggests we should abandon cameras. And while you insist the cameras don't "solve" crimes you then cite an incident where a street pee-er is prosecuted, and don't bother to get any rebuttal from the QPS.

Another manipulation. I decline to be manipulated. Bring on the cameras!

Alison Alloway said...

Interesting how CBD Warrior cherry picked Mike's comments and ignored mine about the helpful, friendly interactions that people do which technology cannot do.

TV Crime fanatic said...

So much of British TV crime plot writing is based on the ubiquitous use of cameras. (Was reminded of this when I watched the Bill last pm on ABC Iview). Though apparently, less than a third of the cameras in the UK work at any one time).

The existence of cameras absolutely everywhere saves the UK cop plot writers a lot of time, hassle - and creativity. The inevitable availability of camera footage enables tremendous and lazy leaps in sleuthing (compared to Sherlock Holmes with his valiant magnifying glass - also showing on ABC Iview).

So if cameras were installed everywhere in Australia, Australian cop plot writes may lose some creativity. Even if the cameras mostly don’t work here either.

Destiny said...

I remember back when they started installing cameras the CBD it was unsafe to walk even a single block in the CBD at night - gangs were roaming the street bashing people unconscious and robbing them - having people on the streets is a great idea but it won't stop the violence as effectively as the cameras have. There are already lots of police and security out there at night, in addition to security posted outside the licenced premises.

kate said...

City Gal on the Esplanade said "The mere fact that some city Councillors (a CBD one!!!???) could have access top CCTV images,.. is a real worry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

That's scary and hell, no... Imagine what they might think up to sue us all for next?

kate said...

City Gal on the Esplanade said "The mere fact that some city Councillors (a CBD one!!!???) could have access top CCTV images,.. is a real worry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

That's scary and hell, no... Imagine what they might think up to sue us all for next?

Destiny said...

I doubt we need worry about being sued by a certain councillor because of CCTV footage - watching it would eat into time enthralled at the mirror.
"Hel-lo Ladeeez!'

Steve said...

I say we stop wasting tax payers money and make the cameras redundant by shooting the [removed] bastards who are bashing everyone in the first place.

Robert Hughes said...

I see that this roll-out has occurred all over the state. Precisely which body is responsible for their installation: is it the police themselves? Or some other state government department? Or is ot the council? I suspect that in Cairns hardly anybody looks at them. Needless to say, following an incident, valuable evidence is there to see. Yet once again, it amazes me that a city the size of Berlin survives with hardly any CCTV at all.