CCTV in the CBD

Closed Circuit TV Cameras (CCTV)CCTV-Camera-Remotely-Monitored-300x300-150x150

As part of their election promises, several candidates including the elected Liberal Mayor, had intended to commit Liverpool City Council to installing CCTV cameras in the Central Business District (CBD).

However, let us examine the facts; Council generated an extensive report which rejected the use of CCTV cameras in the CBD. The reasons were simply that CCTV cameras were not economically justifiable; they had little effect in deterring crime in open areas. The statistics produced by several reputable studies claimed that the crime rate in areas such as the CBD would be reduced by less than 7%. However the cost of operating and monitoring such a scheme in Liverpool could be as high as $2 million per year. The report concluded that there are more economical ways of achieving a similar long term result.

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As an example, late in its last term (2010), Council conducted several safety audits of the CBD. Those audits found a range of issues contributing directly to perceived safety concerns in the CBD. The audit identified that the most outstanding detrimental factor was poor lighting. Many overhead lights in the heart of the CBD were faulty, blocked by tree branches, discoloured or simply non operational. Poorly lit areas, trees, shrubs and hedges blocking out lights, badly positioned luminaires and the lack of adequate maintenance were cited as the major factors leading to a feeling of insecurity after dark. I was part of that audit group along with concerned business people, Police and residents; we all saw it and agreed, totally.

Since then,  Council has started to address the problem, as is the contracted lighting and energy authority.

No doubt CCTV cameras would make the job of the Police easier, but at what price? Without adequate lighting the cameras do not function correctly which makes identification of anyone very difficult.  Hence installing adequate lighting should be Councils first priority before contemplating any cameras. The $470,000 or so, allocated in 2012, plus $150,000 in April 2013, would go a long way towards fixing lighting problems and the perceived safety concerns.

Policing and crime prevention are primarily the responsibilities of State and Federal Governments, to ask Local Councils to install, monitor and maintain CCTV cameras at no cost to the State Government is another blatant example of cost shifting a state responsibility onto local ratepayers and should be resisted. It effectively forces ratepayers to pay for policing services multiple times.

The estimated $2M outlay needed represents around 3% of rates, to ask ratepayers to pay that, while we have an ever increasing substantial backlog of $260M in maintenance and infrastructure, does not make economic sense to me, particularly when relatively few ratepayers will benefit from such an outlay. There is also the fact the special five year rate variation, which nets Council around $6.5 million per year, runs out in 2015. What service does Council NOT do while it installs CCTV cameras for relatively little gain?

Also keep in mind that Council previously installed CCTV cameras (Macquarie Mall)  with little proven effect in crime reduction and as such were eventually removed.

I would have less of an objection if the majority of the funding was provided by the Town Improvement Fund (TIF) a fund that the CBD business community already contributes to, but to ask ratepayers, particularly those that live in the outer suburbs of Liverpool to contribute 3% of their rates is unfair and unjustifiable, especially when they have to content with rapidly deteriorating roads and lack of related infrastructure.  However, the same could be said for the CBD business community, the TIF funds are desperately needed to improve the appearance of the CBD in order to attract customers to it, especially the southern end.

Sadly there is a constant barrage of people who should know better, implying that Liverpool is an unsafe place; that is a misrepresentation of the facts based on current Police statistics. Liverpool has no more crime than any other city of comparable size, including Fairfield and Blacktown, both have substantial numbers of CCTV installed.

I do not support Liverpool City Council bearing the cost of CCTV cameras alone; this Council has far more important priorities to take care of.

Cllr Peter Harle
December 24, 2012.

One Response to CCTV in the CBD

  1. Clr Peter Harle says:

    At its extraordinary meeting of the 12-09-2013, Liverpool City Council approved the revised tender for the Public Safety CCTV and Public Wi-Fi.

    Previously, on the 29th of May 2013, Council had rejected all tenders and called for revised tenders that included Public Wi-Fi to enhance the overall useability of the system.

    I am still opposed to a CCTV system purely for crime prevention for reasons outlined above, however, I do recognise that there may be significant benefits of a combined CCTV and Public Wi-Fi network. More so, since there is the possibility of generating an income that offsets the overall costs of maintaining the combined system. Hence my amendment to the original recommendation and consequent support.

    Moreover, since the original CCTV only proposal, there have been significant changes, including substantial funding contributions from the Federal Government, major contributions from the Town Improvement Fund (levied on businesses within the CBD) and the viability of generating revenue from the Wi-Fi component of the combined system. The point being, that those that make use of the system are contributing substantially more to it than those that don’t. Overall that should be of significant benefit to the community.

    Finally, the majority of Councillors support the CCTV system, irrespective of my opposition to it.

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