Ipswich CCTV network garners global interest

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Ipswich CCTV network garners global interest
Mike Fleming, CC2.0

Aussie designer backs video surveillance for fighting crime.

The former security lead of one of Australia’s first large-scale CCTV deployments in Ipswich, Queensland, has credited the surveillance network for almost 10,000 convictions since 1994.

Despite academic papers to the contrary, Stacy Kirmos, the former security lead for Ipswich City Council's Safe City Program, said CCTV systems allowed police to swiftly crack down on crime.

Kirmos said Ipswich’s CCTV network had garnered interest from CCTV operators from Britain, New York and law enforcement agencies in other Australian states.

He said he would take on opponents to CCTV as a crime fighting tool "head on".

Kirmos’ comments came after reports of an agreement between Cisco and Chinese government contractor Hikvision Digital Technology that would see 500,000 CCTV cameras deployed in the Chinese city of Chongqing.

The ‘Peaceful Chongqing’ project will cover over 1,000 square kilometres of the province in China's south west. Chongqing is home to approximately 12 million people.

Kirmos said systems were only effective if police were supplied with real-time video data and use of the technology is supported by relevant agencies and legislation.

"They do reduce crime," Kirmos said. "But in many surveillance systems, operators don't think how to utilise the images back in the control room - cameras don't work on their own."

The Ipswich CCTV network had led to almost 10,000 convictions from 15,000 arrests since its establishment in 1994, and had saved the Queensland Government millions in legal costs.

Three police stations - including the dispatch unit - were supplied with a CCTV video feed and could request control room operators to track persons of interest.

A Memorandum of Understanding had been signed between Ipswich Council and National ICT Australia (NICTA) to trial facial and behaviour recognition over the CCTV network.

"There are advantages in using software to help crime prevention, if you have the image bank to feed into the system."

While it is dwarfed by the Chongqing network and London's 750,000-strong London eye deployment, the Ipswich network could be a pilot for a Queensland-wide CCTV network.

An Australian Law Reform Commission report into the Federal Privacy Act found that surveillance technologies should only be required in public places.

"There should be no regulation of optical surveillance in public places — where individuals could expect to be observed", the report said, but it recommended that "optical surveillance devices to observe people who would otherwise reasonably expect to be safe from observation be prohibited."

"The ALRC recommended that there should be exceptions to the general prohibition on optical surveillance in private places, such as an exception for the use of an optical surveillance device by a person for the purpose of observing what, on reasonable grounds, appeared to be the commission of an offence, and an exception for the use of an optical surveillance device for law enforcement purposes."

Copyright © SC Magazine, Australia

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