The acceptance of council-operated street cameras continues to grow with Richmond Valley Council following the path of Lismore with plans for 55 cameras in the Casino CBD.
Richmond Valley Council has applied for a $464,000 grant under the National Crime Prevention Fund to set up CCTV cameras in Casino’s central business district following a recent survey that found 95 per cent of respondents felt unsafe in town at night.
The move follows the ‘success’ of systems set up in Lismore and Nimbin, a growing acceptance in Ballina, and even some sign of acceptance by Byron mayor Simon Richardson if they were run by police.
Richmond Valley Council general manager John Walker said the cameras would help make residents feel safer while the town continued to push for 24-hour policing.
‘This project is in line with our community strategic plan in respect of safety and has the full support and involvement of local police,’ Mr Walker said.
‘If you believe local government is on the right track when it does community strategic planning, which is the basis on which we engage the community, then the community is telling us they don’t feel safe and they want something done about it.’
Mr Walker said he considered it a valid expense for council, which he estimated after installation would cost between $50,000-$70,000 per year to run.
‘We’ve talked to Lismore as our neighbours and we’re aware of what they do and we’ve looked at a number of other council areas.
‘Casino is a very different CBD to that of, say, Byron: we don’t have a lot of tourists and restaurants open with people walking around. We have a reasonably quiet CBD except that there are seven pubs and one club and a lot of movement at night from various establishments, and those people seem to want to get themselves in trouble.
‘We hope it will reduce impulsive crime. It’s a lot of nuisance crime – break and enters, malicious damage – which is costly for us and ratepayers. So if we can get that down I imagine it will go some way to paying the costs.’
Mr Walker said, if successful, the council would install 55 security cameras on Walker, Barker, Centre and Canterbury streets, as these were the main areas targeted by offenders.
He added that the project could be seen as stage one of a broader initiative which would eventually include Coraki and Evans Head.
Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell said she believed the issue of community safety outweighed the issue of individual privacy.
‘The cameras have been successful in not only deterring anti-social behaviour but also in identifying perpetrators of criminal acts and also allowing police to intervene before situations get out of control,’ she said.
Nimbin Hemp Embassy spokesman Michael Balderstone said CCTV cameras in Nimbin had reduced street crime and vandalism but he believed they displaced crime rather than addressed the core issues.
‘We all agree here in Nimbin that we need to look at what’s causing this disrespect because that’s what it’s really about,’ he said.
‘Isn’t it time we got to the roots instead of trying to move it sideways? CCTV cameras are band aids, they don’t fix the problem, they just hide it a bit.’
Ballina mayor David Wright said the issue of street cameras in the CBD had died down, with a drop in street crime the past year, but he believed if it were raised again the council wouldn’t be opposed to it, especially as the cost had fallen significantly with improvements in technology.
Meanwhile Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson believes residents are opposed to CCTV cameras but if they were implemented they should be operated by police rather than council.
‘There are plenty of things that we can do that have a wider value to our residents than simply spending one hundred or two hundred thousand dollars a year on cameras,’ he said.