Byron Shire Council has given the green light and up to $200,000 funding for the installation of 16 CCTV cameras in the central business area around Apex Park and Jonson Street.
The controversial issue of security cameras has divided the community but it was a case of an offer too good to refuse for councillors at last Thursday’s Council meeting.
Their funding decision also means providing $15,000 per year to the Byron Youth Service’s Street Cruise Program, beginning in the 2015-16 financial year.
Additionally with the CCTV funding, partners will be sought to help the estimated $80,000 per year ‘and/or find partners to collect the data and maintain the system (eg NSW Police).’
Perhaps most importantly, a lighting component has been included, totalling $45,000.
The mover of the motion, Cr Chris Cubis, told fellow councillors that he had been affected by Byron’s street violence.
‘An apprentice of mine was bashed to within an inch of his life,’ Cr Cubis said.
During debate, mayor Simon Richardson warned of the cost associated with CCTV upkeep and cited studies which suggest that it is only effective in carparks.
‘In terms of town centres that experience street violence, CCTV is the last thing people think about. Even police presence doesn’t help,’ Cr Richardson said.
And in a rare show of fiscal abandonment, Cr Sol Ibrahim said, ‘If it’s going to cost some money, then so be it, we have a $60 million budget.’
‘Capture and conviction is what the community expects,’ Cr Ibrahim said.
Meanwhile, president of Byron Bay’s chamber of commerce (Byron United), Michael O’Grady, told Echonetdaily that he personally conducted a study on behalf of the chamber a year ago.
‘I looked at the CCTV installations of surrounding shires, and one of the findings was that maintenance costs were not as high as Council’s estimated $80,000,’ Mr O’Grady said.
But he did concede that with the cameras being near the beach, there could be higher costs associated owing to the salt air.
He added that the topic of contributing to CCTV had not yet been canvassed with Byron United members.
June 3, 2014
The question of whether to seek funding to install CCTV was recently debated in Council. But some questions remain. Is it to make us feel safer or actually be safer? (Or does the difference matter?) Is it to decrease alcohol-fuelled violence? Is it value for money? Is it the most effective measure? Global research conclusively provides some answers. It can and often does make people feel safer. It does not actually make them any safer, but does make cars safer from car park break ins. It has no effect on preventing alcohol-fuelled violence. The costs generally outweigh the benefits. Other measures such as increased lighting, curbing excessive drinking and increased police patrols all have more effect on alcohol-fuelled violence.
The recent offer of $200,000 for funding for CCTV by the Federal Government as part of its safer streets program is the second incarnation of John Howard’s National Community Crime Prevention Programme. We should learn from the mistakes of that program, not repeat them simply to appear to be doing something to curb alcohol fuelled violence.
The latest ‘offer’ for councils is politically, not factually motivated. Immediately after Jill Meagher’s murder in Melbourne September 2012 – not prevented, but solved through the help of CCTV – Tony Abbott announced that, if the Liberal-National Coalition won the 2013 federal election, he would re-establish the Howard Government funding scheme (The National Community Crime Prevention Programme) for local councils across Australia to install CCTV systems. (John Howard spent $65.5 million of taxpayer money on this programme.) Abbott promised to spend $50 million more. This is despite there having been no in-depth scrutiny of the effectiveness, cost-efficiency and usefulness of the CCTV funding scheme as a crime prevention measure adopted by local councils. Well, the offer has now come and the mistake is being made again.
An ‘offer’ to Councils to install CCTV is not new and the results from the previous occasion should provide cause for caution.
Dr Robert Carr (University of Wollongong) looked at the issue of Council controlled CCTV in his recently published report: National Inquiry into Federal Funding for Local Government CCTV Systems in Australia, & the Police “Power Creep” in NSW (Preliminary Results). Surveying responses from all local governments in Australia who have received federal government funding for the installation of CCTV systems since funding for the technology was first provided by the Howard Government in 2004, he stated, ”Interestingly I found that federal funding schemes have produced or exacerbated a range of problems for local councils.”
The survey revealed, firstly, that the technology has become a financial burden for local governments and their ratepayers. CCTV has been an expensive cost-shifting exercise for local councils.
Dr Carr explains, “As one respondent stated: ‘CCTV is not an effective method for crime prevention on its own and even when integrated with other crime prevention programs its effectiveness is minor at best… The shortcomings of CCTV are many and do not match the cost to install, monitor and maintain.”
Almost all councils surveyed stated that while the costs for installing CCTV were covered by federal funding, it was local government and their ratepayers which pick up the tab for ongoing running costs, repairs, staffing to monitor screens and the like.
NOTE: The current offer to Byron Shire Council also does not include funding for ongoing running costs and repairs. General Manager Ken Gainger noted that the CCTV funding offer would have ongoing costs estimated at up to $80,000 for monitoring and maintenance each year. If the application is successful, this cost will need to be included in all future Council budgets whilst CCTV is in place,” he said.
Prior to installing the system, Council will be required to develop a CCTV policy, guidelines, code of practice and operating procedures as per the NSW state guidelines. Council estimated that it would take about six months to prepare the required documents and consult with the community on the program.
Also regarding the Howard Government program, Dr Carr outlines, “Very little (in most cases no) statistical evidence has been collected by local governments, indicating an over-reliance by local councils on anecdotal evidence supplied by police and media reports. An exception to this was Shoalhaven Council – which actually found that crime rates went up overall in the surveillance area after CCTV had been installed.”
The Australian Institute of Criminology states, “the value of CCTV as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour remains ambiguous.”
Often used as the poster boy for CCTV, the UK is the worlds’ leader in installation of CCTV, yet their results are underwhelming at best. Strikingly, Surveillance cameras do little, if anything, to prevent late night alcohol-fuelled crime and violence on Britain’s high streets, the country’s most senior police officer in the field has admitted.
Graeme Gerrard, head of CCTV at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said that although Britain was now a virtual surveillance state, cameras usually failed to act as a deterrent for drunken yobs. “It is very effective in places like car parks, where offenders are going out to break into cars, and are thinking rationally. In terms of town centres, where a lot of the behaviour is violent behaviour, often fuelled by alcohol, people aren’t thinking rationally. They get angry, the CCTV is the last thing they are thinking about. Even the presence of police officers doesn’t deter the disorder on the street, so cameras are unlikely to deter them.”
Around the world, the findings are the same. The review of recent published evidence regarding the impact of CCTV on crime by Justice Analytical Services from the Police and Community Safety Directorate Scottish Government found,”Gill and Spriggs (2005) conducted what is generally considered to be the largest, most comprehensive evaluation of CCTV to date. The installation of CCTV was followed by a reduced number of crimes in only two of the fourteen projects evaluated (‘City Outskirts’ and ‘Hawkeye’). Even then, as the decrease in crime for ‘City Outskirts’ also exactly coincided with improvements in lighting, the apparent deterrence effect for this area could not be attributed solely to the introduction of CCTV, although this does suggest that CCTV may have the most positive deterrence impact when combined with improved street lighting. Nevertheless, out of the fourteen projects evaluated in this study, in only one of these is it plausible that CCTV was a significant factor in the following reduction in crime”
In Sweden, the only place where surveillance was found to have a significant impact was in car park stations where crime had fallen by 51% after surveillance was introduced.
In the absence of accurate crime statistics in areas under surveillance by local governments, it often comes down to populism to legitimate the use of CCTV in local council areas. Deferring to a ‘fear of crime’ is a very unreliable premise for the CCTV funding model – one that is susceptible to the kinds of moral panics facilitated by the mass media, and to the proliferate politicisation of the technology. In Byron, we have consistently witnessed the same pattern. A person gets assaulted, the media cover the incident and community (generally business) leaders call for CCTV which is supported by the Police. The questions of evidence of CCTV effectiveness, whether instead more police should be on the beat, whether lighting should be increased and whether wider social ills are at play are never or only momentarily discussed.
So, what about Byron?
As part of the recent debate on the support for the ‘offer’ of CCTV, a few amendments were included. We managed to get the inclusion of a request for lighting to accompany any CCTV, as lighting up known problem areas has a twofold effect of deterring anti social behaviour and providing streets that our residents feel safe to move about freely anytime of the night.
Also, the question of ongoing costs were met with an additional point,“That Council note with the application that Council will need: a) to determine partners committed to on-going operating costs (estimated at $80,000 per year); or b) find partners to collect the data and maintain the system (eg NSW Police); or both.“
See also: http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hansart.nsf/V3Key/LC20130528018[/embed]
May 6, 2013
CCTV privacy ruling ‘a worry’
A decision the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal that CCTV cameras breach privacy could have significant ramifications for northern rivers councils.
The tribunal upheld a complaint by a Nowra resident that it was not the responsibility of local councils to collect evidence for prosecutions and that experts had demonstrated that crime could increase after the installation of cameras.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell told Echonetdaily that she had asked senior staff this morning to look into the implications of the tribunal’s decision, though added that CCTV cameras had been a ‘great success’ in Lismore and Nimbin over several years and had led to many arrests for criminal acts through the identification of offenders.
‘CCTV is a very valuable tool for us as a deterrent for antisocial behaviour in the Lismore CBD,’ she said.
‘Of course we are very interested in the issue and it will be of concern to councils throughout the state – I sent an email off to staff this morning to ask where we stand on it.
‘We are highly supportive of the use of CCTV in public spaces and we hope the state government looks at the issue so we can continue to use them.’
Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson believes Byron Shire residents oppose CCTV cameras and told the ABC that they should be operated by police.
He said he considered other safety options like better transport and better lighting more appropriate for Byron Bay.
‘There’re plenty of things that we can do that have a wider value to our residents than simply spending one hundred or two hundred thousand dollars a year on cameras,’ he said.
‘Our position is if others wish to, we’ll begrudgingly accept it as part of a suite of safety measures, but we certainly don’t want to be involved with it ourselves.’
Shoalhaven City Council has now turned off its CCTV cameras following the tribunal’s decision, but councils across NSW are awaiting word from the attorney-general about the legality of the cameras after premier Barry O’Farrell ordered an urgent review.
The tribunal was not satisfied that council signage adequately informed people about the privacy implications, ruling that the council had not demonstrated that filming people in public was reasonably necessary to prevent crime.
NSW Police Association spokesman Pat Gooley told the ABC that areas without CCTV were at a disadvantage as police relied on the footage to track offenders.
May 2, 2013