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Source & Copyright: www.cla.asn.au/0805/index.php/articles/2009/cctv-system-wastes-most-of-6m-says-cla

CCTV system wastes most of $6m, says CLA

Article posted on Tuesday 14 April 2009

Spending $6m on pretending CCTV in WA will prevent crime, or even cost-effectively catch criminals after crime, is nothing more than PR spin, CLA CEO Bill Rowlings says. Even in the UK, with the world's biggest CCTV systems, the technology is a massive failure, which senior Metropolitan Police acknowledge publicly.

WA about to waste $6m on CCTV
WA is about to waste most of $6m introducing a ‘big brother’ CCTV system statewide that won’t work...just like the system at Sydney Airport didn’t work when a bikie gang allegedly killed a man there last month.

“This is a con trick on the WA public,” said Civil Liberties Australia’s CEO, Bill Rowlings.

According to the media release of WA Police Minister Rob Johnson: “A new CCTV register system will allow WA Police to better monitor and fight anti-social behaviour across Western Australia.”

He claims police will watch live vision from CCTV cameras across the State, “which could allow them to act faster when an incident arises,” as his media release says.

“Any suggestion that CCTV will actively fight anti-social behaviour is a beat-up, and a triumph of PR spin over experience, ” Mr Rowlings said today.

“CCTV systems do not prevent crime. Even after a crime, CCTV systems produce extremely poor results, according to world police authorities.”

The head of the Visual Images, Identifications and Detections Office (Video) at New Scotland Yard, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, said last year that massive investment in CCTV cameras to prevent crime in the UK had failed to have a significant impact, despite billions of pounds spent on the new technology.

Only 3% of crimes in London were solved using CCTV images, even though Britain has more security cameras than any other country in Europe.

“Use of CCTV images for court evidence has so far been very poor,” said DCI Neville, the officer in charge of the Metropolitan Police’s CCTV unit.

"CCTV was originally seen as a preventative measure," DCI Neville told the Security Document World Conference in London. "Billions of pounds has been spent on kit, but no thought has gone into how the police are going to use the images and how they will be used in court.

“It's been an utter fiasco: only 3% of crimes were solved by CCTV. There's no fear of CCTV. Why don't people fear it? [They think] the cameras are not working," DCI Neville said.

And, if Sydney Airport is anything to go by in Australia, the cameras won’t be working in WA, Mr Rowlings said.

“What chance is there that cameras in remote Meekatharra will be repaired by a competent camera technician every time a sandstorm blows through, or there’s an electricity spike?” Mr Rowlings said.

Police Minister Johnson claims ‘blue iris’ will watch people at large public events like New Year’s Eve and Australia Day Skyworks. “Blue Iris will be a valuable tool to police operations and crime prevention across WA,” Mr Johnson said.

“That bit about ‘crime prevention’ is pure, unadulterated PR spin,” said Mr Rowlings.

“Statistics, studies and real-life examples throughout Australia and the world show CCTV will cost heaps, but produce virtually no practical results. If it succeeds in cutting down on minor property crime, it will do even that limited job only within a dozen metres or so of a camera location,” he said.

“Mr Johnson and the police owe it to the people of WA to tell the truth…not fibs,” Mr Rowlings said.

Mr Johnson said the State Government had “committed $6m to the Community Crime Prevention Program, of which Blue Iris was a main component”. The project is a joint initiative between the WA Police Traffic and Operations Portfolio and the Office of Crime Prevention.

“Mr Johnson and the police may just as well have bought $6m worth of beer bottles, and smashed 95% of them…because the cameras and the system will not prevent crime,” Mr Rowlings said.

“Police claim they watch 596 cameras now ‘across the state’, according to their media statements. They will soon have 1500 more cameras to watch...and later this year the number will rise to 5000 cameras or more throughout WA, if their media release can be believed,” he said.

“There is no way with current camera and software technology and lack of high-speed broadband links statewide that real-time monitoring of all these CCTV locations is a possibility. And, if real-time monitoring is not possible, there can be no crime prevention.

“For media releases to claim that CCTV will prevent crime is thoroughly irresponsible,” Mr Rowlings said.

Even to properly utilise CCTV vision after a crime would create a need for 20-30 more police officers, and there has been no mention of increased staffing. The more cameras, the more police are needed for just plain ‘mechanical’ tasks around verifying and assembling evidence suitable for a court, Mr Rowlings said.

“You need people watching all the vision of interest that has been recorded, and logging and filing tapes and disks in a way they can be readily accessed where and when needed.

“In the majority of cases, you need to re-format the vision to match police systems…and the re-formating degrades the quality considerably.

“Where are the WA Police going to get the budget allocation for dozens more people for CCTV work?

“In the UK, worldwide home of CCTV surveillance, they are closing down camera systems because having operators watch them is too expensive. Cash-strapped centres – such as Worcester and the Cotswold District Council’s Cirencester – are cancelling camera contracts or cutting back on coverage.

“In Dorset, they’ve advertised for unpaid volunteers to monitor live images from street cameras three days a week because they can’t afford trained pros to keep watch.”

Mr Rowlings said the reality was that a handful of miscreant police officers, being punished for internal offences ranging from petty errors to whistleblowing, would be the ones mainly monitoring and working with any WA CCTV systems.

“That’s how police CCTV works,” he said. “CCTV is normally a ‘punishment’ for officers…it’s considered a menial duty, not where the real action is.”