Wodonga clears way for CCTV cameras

Wodonga Chamber of Commerce business manager Bernie Squire would welcome CCTV in public places. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
Wodonga Chamber of Commerce business manager Bernie Squire would welcome CCTV in public places. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

WODONGA Council appears to be paving the way for security cameras to be installed in the city, but only on council buildings and sites.

The council’s new CCTV policy gives chief executive Patience Harrington the power to authorise the installation of cameras to protect council assets as well as the safety of staff and customers.

It is a move that would be welcomed by the city’s chamber of commerce, which is also asking: Why stop there?

While CCTV in public places in Wodonga does not seem to be on the agenda, chamber president Brett Drinnan and business manager Bernie Squire said most traders would support it.

“I’d be happy if they put one on every street corner,” he said.

The council’s policy, approved at last week’s council meeting, includes guidelines as to how CCTV would be used.

During the debate, Cr Michael Fraser stressed the policy was “not a discussion of whether or where or when ... it’s about how, if we feel we need to”, but there were no plans with council.

The discussion paper says once the policy is approved, Ms Harrington “would have the authority to approve the use of CCTV at council facilities and other sites for the protection of the council’s physical assets”.

The paper further states “there is no proposal to use CCTV for detecting unlawful activity that directly threatens public safety” and discussions with local police highlighted that “CCTV in public places is not warranted at this time” because of a reduction in crime across the city.

Any moves to install security cameras in public places would require community consultation.

The paper points out “the security of private premises is the responsibility of the business owner”, but the idea of creating a register of local businesses with CCTV had been raised. The register could be given to police to help when investigating crimes in the area.

A council spokeswoman yesterday would not comment on the council’s existing or future security measures.

Mr Squire said a council officer had spoken with him briefly about the council’s CCTV policy, and he was told it was considering installing cameras on its buildings.

“The discussion was in regards to its own assets and the council is well within its rights to protect those assets,” he said.

“But we would be happy for it to be further reaching than just council sites, for public safety and property protection.”

Mr Squire said the chamber would be happy to work with the council to create a CCTV register.

Mr Drinnan agreed a register could benefit the community as a whole, with police easily being able to look up which businesses might have caught footage that could help with a particular investigation.

“Anything that’s going to make Wodonga safer we’ll be keen for,” he said.

“It’s proven technology, look how it helped in the Jill Meagher (murder) case (in Melbourne).

“And if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”