'Big Brother' Doyle increases CBD's CCTV cameras
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Source & Copyright: www.theage.com.au/national/big-brother-doyle-increases-cbds-cctv-cameras-20090819-epze.html

'Big Brother' Doyle increases CBD's CCTV cameras

Peter Gregory
August 19, 2009 .

Civil libertarians have questioned the dramatic increase in the number of CCTV cameras operating in Melbourne’s CBD, saying they could potentially invade the privacy of citizens.

The Melbourne City Council today released a map of the 54 CCTV cameras placed in city trouble spots in a bid to deter and capture footage of violence.

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle said the cameras would be an important part of efforts by the council and Victoria Police to lessen city crime.

CBD CCTV: who's watching you?
Take a look inside the control room of the Melbourne CCTV centre.
When asked about potential objections about the surveillance, Mr Doyle replied: "There will be groups that say this is Big Brother. I say 'bad luck'. The city's safety comes first".

He said protocols controlled the use of the vision, and public access to it.

According to the council, 31 of the cameras have been installed over the last year.

Mr Doyle said they were at fixed locations, but were flexible, and could "recognise" a face from up to a kilometre away.

In 2007, the then 23 city cameras recorded 2000 incidents, he said. Vision from about 1200 of them was referred to police, and more than 500 arrests were made as a result.

Mr Doyle said the council used police mapping and intelligence to help place and operate the cameras.

He said they cost $1.8 million to install. Another $1 million would be spent each year to maintain them, and have trained staff checking the images that they generated.

"People should know that these cameras are here. They should know that they are going to be under scrutiny," he said.

"Now, is that going to stop the drug-affected or alcohol-impaired person doing the wrong thing? Probably not, because they have lost control. But, as I have said, then it makes very good evidence."

Council rules say the footage is kept for 30 days, then destroyed if no request has been made to view it.

Police, alleged victims of offences, and lawyers acting for individuals and authorities can ask to see or copy a videotape or photograph of incidents.

Liberty Victoria president Michael Pearce said the cameras undoubtedly helped with law and order, particularly in hotspots such as King Street and other parts of the city.

"We can see there is a legitimate law enforcement objective in using them for that," he said.

Mr Pearce said the downside was the potential for invasion of privacy.

He called for comprehensive privacy law that enshrined the right to privacy, and allowed citizens to sue if they were embarrassed when shown publicly on security camera footage while acting legally.

Mr Pearce said a person caught in a compromising position - but still acting lawfully - currently had no ability to sue if the relevant CCTV footage was posted on the internet.

"If somebody's caught on footage committing a crime, then there's no problem about using that information," he said.

"Now that the ability [to publish information] is widespread and far-reaching, if we want to maintain any semblance of privacy, which I think most people do, the law really needs to respond."