A town on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has become the first in the state to fund its own high-tech surveillance system to combat crime, with local police saying it’s already working wonders on the streets.
While some Kenilworth residents are not pleased about “being watched”, officers insist the number plate recognition cameras will keep the community safer and say they have already led to arrests.
Local businesses banded together with Sunshine Coast Council to fund eight cameras, worth about $35,000, which have been set up in four locations across the town.
As well as general recording, they’re capable of detecting suspect vehicles. Police can also use the footage to trace whether a car is linked to someone with a criminal history.
Senior Constable Pierre Senekal said the cameras would be “more of a deterrent” for the town, which already has “very low crime numbers”.
“And we strive to keep it that way,” he said.
“That for the police helps us enormously to identify offenders and help us prosecute them.”
Local resident Shane Smith said he hoped the cameras would deter crime all together.
“We didn’t really need it, but we thought it’s just another way of catching any criminal activity,” he said.
“So a safety net essentially. It’s not like there’s been an increase in crime. I hope they don’t get used at all — hopefully they’ll act as a deterrent and stop any crime.”
Senior Constable Senekal said that within two days of installing the cameras, police identified an offender at the scene of a stealing crime, which led to the man being arrested and charged.
Over the next few months, the technology helped officers catch a group attempting to break into a home.
And they detected a person wanted over a stabbing last month, leading to an arrest warrant being issued.
‘Treating everyone as a criminal’
However, despite the community and local police backing the initiative, the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties said it did not approve.
“We would like to see the cameras have a blacklist of number plates, so police can search those vehicles only.
“A similar program in the US stored data on 82 million numbers plates, of which only a very small percentage were suspect vehicles.”
For safety, not spying
But for Senior Constable Senekal, the cameras’ results spoke for themselves.
“We don’t wait for crime to come to our town, we keep the crime away, so it’s a warning to people that come to our town and to offenders.
“We will identify you and we will catch you and charge you.
“To the tourists and families that come, come and enjoy Kenilworth, we’ve got cameras to keep you safe.”