Sydney appears intent on matching London, and perhaps even Beijing, in its rapid rollout of CCTV cameras. Cameras that police will have unfettered access to. And which may well be linked to smart systems enabling facial and motion recognition.
The intent is to prevent crime and identify criminals. But the reality is that law abiding Aussies are losing their last vestiges of privacy in Australia’s capital cities where your every movement could be tracked.
Don’t worry though.
‘If you’re doing the right thing, you have nothing to fear,’ assures Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
We assume then that Gladys would have no qualms about police stopping by her home and searching through her bedroom drawers unannounced either.
Businesses get CCTV cameras
Despite a range of privacy concerns, around 1000 new CCTV cameras will be installed across Western Sydney.
It’s a $5 million endeavour with a four-year roll out, but Berejiklian committed to it on Tuesday.
According to AAP, the project will start in community groups and small businesses across 10 different government areas, before it expands to larger business over NSW.
Berejiklian insisted this was a voluntary program, where businesses can apply for the cameras to be installed.
If it was that simple, perhaps you’d think ‘why not?’ and sign up for a couple to place at your shop’s backdoor where employees may leave from after closing.
Problem is, you have no say as to where the cameras are positioned. That decision is entirely up to the police to make, and it is them who will have complete access to any footage recorded.
It’s difficult to see any kind of peace of mind coming from this arrangement, don’t you think?
Cameras fight crime
Of course, the argument floating around is that, rather than being used as an extra set of eyes, these cameras are acting more as a deterrent for potential shoplifters.
As Police Minister Troy Grant said:
‘The addition of CCTV is a massive boost in the arsenal in the fight against crime.
‘It’s about putting criminals on the back foot – if they know they’re being watched, it makes them think twice about doing the wrong thing.’
And Joe Lichaa, who owns a men’s clothing store, backed up this argument, saying he installed a CCTV camera a decade ago and thinks it is truly beneficial:
‘Sometimes I get disturbed by customers and I don’t have the time to come out to see what they want and they just pick up a couple of things and take off,’ he says.
‘People who see the CCTV camera, they think twice about coming in [and stealing], it deters them.’
Unfortunately, Lichaa also admitted that he deals with shoplifting around once a week. Doesn’t seem like a very strong deterrent then…
Police access a privacy violation
As for police having full access, that’s a huge red flag for privacy violation.
Apparently, the footage captured by these new cameras can be stored for up to two years.
Why though? Surely a case of shoplifting would want to be resolved within a week. And as for more brutal crimes, a two-year delay to find a potential serial killer is incredibly unnerving.
But Berejiklian is ignorant to these concerns, claiming that ‘surveillance is part-and-parcel of modern day life’.
‘Police are the best ones to monitor security, to make sure they match evidence in criminal proceedings but also to monitor community activity.’
I’ll leave you with this…
According to an Australian Institute of Criminology report, police make on average about 17 requests for CCTV footage per day. 14 of these requests tend to be for criminal investigations.
God only knows what the other three requests are for.
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