I REFER to your article ‘Audit calls for more and better CCTV cameras’, (SCR, February 6).
A number of points should be made about the article and the audit report. The report was almost 12 months late. It was written by the same council staff member who oversaw the implementation of the CCTV system, including the tender – hardly somebody who could be said to be independent of the process.
The number of applications for footage declined dramatically over the first 12 months of operation of the CCTV system not because crime diminished in the Nowra CBD and surrounds but because the quality of the footage was so poor. Most crimes in the CBD occur after dark. The cameras installed by the company that won the tender were never capable of capturing footage which met any reasonable standard of quality, including the Australian Standards (AS 4806).
The crime figures released by council in its trial evaluation report (see the council website) were incorrect. After obtaining the correct figures it was clear in those crime categories examined by council (malicious damage, break and enter and assaults) there was an increase in 2011 at the same time as a dramatic reduction in applications for footage. If the system was working you would expect police, at the very least, to maintain their application rate.
If these CCTV cameras have been of assistance to police in their investigations, how many successful prosecutions have been brought where Nowra CBD CCTV footage was critical to the outcome? Has any of the footage been of sufficient quality to be admissible in court?
The Shoalhaven Local Area Command is unashamedly supportive of the Nowra CBD CCTV system. That isn’t surprising. It has lobbied for it and has been actively involved in its implementation. But local government has a legal, moral and financial responsibility to consider all stakeholders and to look to the evidence, no matter how unpalatable, of whether something is working. The plain fact of the matter, apart from any issues about privacy and freedom, is these CCTV cameras don’t work. Council’s primary reason for installing these cameras was to assist with crime prevention. The Nowra CBD CCTV cameras have failed to deliver.