Goolwa Shopping Centre toilet cameras defended

The installation of security cameras in toilets at the Goolwa Shopping Centre, south of Adelaide, has come under attack from members of the public concerned about their privacy.

Some members of the public turned to social media and contacted The Times after hearing about the cameras on Channel 9's A Current Affair on January 27.

Goolwa Shopping Centre owners, the Ferraro family, and centre managing agent Bill Barton, of Bill Barton Real Estate, declined to comment but used a half-page advertisement in The Times to criticise A Current Affair.

The camera's include one fixed non-movable dome camera in each of the women’s, men’s and disabled restrooms and were installed during a $140,000 renovation in August 2013.

Defending the decision

The centre's security contractor defended the decision to put the security cameras in the restrooms.

Security contractor Peter Schirmer said prior to the renovations and cameras being installed there was a lot of damage to the facilities including anti-social behaviour, drug taking and criminal activity.

“The centre had to look at the crime. These are privately-owned, public facilties,” he said.

Since the renovations and installation of cameras virtually no offences have been committed, Mr Schirmer said.

"I can assure the general public these cameras are for their benefit and nothing else." - Security guard Peter Schirmer

“If people don’t like the fact the cameras are there, don’t use them [the restrooms].”

Mr Schirmer said the cameras were date and time stamped, so if a crime was committed in the restrooms, it would allow police or security to ascertain when the offence occurred, and who had entered the facilities.

He said the cameras were lawful, the lenses were non zoom and were angled to monitor the entry door to the restrooms.

The angle can only be changed manually and the facilities have signs informing patrons the area was under surveillance. 

“You can clearly see who enters, but you can’t see inside the cubicles,” Mr Schirmer said.

The cameras cannot be monitored from any other location other than computers located in Goolwa Shopping Centre, he said.

“Anyone at any time from any government agency can audit those cameras, and demand to see what we have been looking at.

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The Times has viewed footage taken from the cameras and can confirm the only footage taken was of people entering and exiting the facilities.

The debate begins

Mr Schirmer said installing cameras in restrooms had raised debate throughout the community but he believed they were necessary.

He said if people had behaved appropriately, the centre would not have had to take measures to ensure the protection of their asset, and the safety of women, men and children.

Hills Fleurieu Police officer-in-charge Superintendent Rob Williams said he had spoken to centre property manager Bill Barton following the A Current Affair program.

He  said Mr Barton explained there had been significant property damage at the toilets and as a result he had consulted with a number of sources to determine an approach that would reduce the damage.

“Based on what Mr Barton has informed me, the cameras have been set up in areas where the public would not be in any compromising situations and if they were then they would probably be committing an offence themselves.

“I am informed that the CCTV was not in a position to view a person inside a cubicle or the urinal area."

A spokesperson for Alexandrina Council said council were not involved with the management of the toilets in the centre.

“As this is a private building, the toilets are managed by the centre manager and building’s owner," the spokesperson said.

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