City News

Laneway terror, but no CCTV

The 85m laneway known as 90a Victoria Street. Photo: Paul Gregoire

The City of Sydney will install 10 new CCTV cameras in the CBD, Kings Cross and Surry Hills at an immediate cost of $350,000.

The decision is a win for Liberal councillor Christine Forster, who moved for the project to be fast-tracked in October. She told City News the council had initially been resistant toward providing the funding.

But the real financial hit will be associated with monitoring the cameras. The City will employ two extra staff to monitor the surveillance feeds, at a cost of $151,000 a year.

The sub-committee report says it wants to reduce the number of cameras monitored by an individual operator at any one time to 25-30 rather than 30-40.

Council currently employs 16 operators on a rotational roster, with four employees monitoring cameras at any one time.

At next week’s council meeting, Ms Forster will call for increased CCTV signage, including on buses and trains. She said it’s important people know they will be watched.

“Most people who come into the city to have a big Friday or Saturday night come by public transport,” she said. “Hopefully if people see these while they’re still sober…that message might be absorbed.”

But councillors have also indicated CCTV cannot always be the answer, following the rape of a 25-year old woman in Potts Point a fortnight ago.

The incident occurred in a dark laneway known as 90a Victoria Street. There are no CCTV cameras near the thoroughfare, which is lit by one street lamp operated by Ausgrid.

Ms Forster at first appeared to advocate greater use of CCTV when quoted in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. However, in an interview with City News she stopped short of recommending more surveillance.

“That is a fairly residential part of the area, so I don’t know that it necessarily is the type of area where we want to have CCTV cameras,” Ms Forster said.

“If there are things that need to be improved, let’s improve them. If we can put better lighting in, let’s do that. If we can get more rangers and police patrolling the area, let’s do that.”

Liberal councillor Edward Mandla said CCTV cameras could not be installed in residential zones for privacy reasons, but backed calls for better signage.

“We should be having signs all over Potts Point saying ‘you are in a CCTV area’,” he said. “The average crim and thug, they don’t know where the cameras are – nor should they.”

Greens councillor Irene Doutney said better lighting is needed.

“Council owns many lanes and I think it is important that we ensure that where they are located near community services they are well lit and safe for residents,” she said.

A City of Sydney spokesperson told the Inner West Independent the council is in discussions with Ausgrid about lighting levels in the area. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Ausgrid said lights cannot be changed without the permission of council because it is their responsibility.

“All street lights [are] the responsibility of council and we operate the lighting on behalf of council,” the spokesperson said. “We can only change the lighting level on the street or in an area after discussing it with council.”

Andrew Woodhouse, president of the Potts Point and Kings Cross Conservation Society, said more policing is required.

“This tragic incident should be a reminder that more police on patrol are required in that area.”

With Michael Koziol

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