More CCTV cameras for Wanaka

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The number of CCTV cameras monitored by police in Wanaka has been increasing, but the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties is questioning if they really reduce crime.

A police spokeswoman said Wanaka police had access to monitor 11 cameras.

The cameras recorded and stored up to four weeks of data, and five of them were also able to be viewed live at the Southern District Command Centre in Dunedin.

Queenstown Lakes District Council senior communications adviser Rebecca Pitts said a new camera had been installed in December and another was due to be installed soon, with a programme of work over the next two and a-half years to increase this count.

QLDC councillor and Wanaka Community Board chairman Quentin Smith said CCTV was a “really useful tool” and had been “successful in assisting police resolve a number of incidents around Wanaka”.

QLDC had “an ongoing programme of supporting the CCTV infrastructure” which was monitored and used by police.

The cameras were in locations that were known as potential problem spots such as outside late-night bars, he said.

“They have proven to be quite successful and assisted in a number of investigations and I am happy to support their ongoing expansion and upgrade as required.”

Mr Smith said the cameras’ presence increased the potential of apprehending those involved with crime “particularly assault, vandalism and theft and hopefully assist in maintaining Wanaka as a safe environment to visit and live.”

It also could also allow identification of issues such as congregations of people and allowed police and community patrols to monitor and intervene before incidents occurred, he said.

New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties chairman Thomas Beagle, of Carterton, said he was not surprised at the increase in CCTV cameras but questioned the benefit of them.

“What is the justification for these?

“Are they just being used as an excuse to reduce staff numbers?

“The gold standard for policing is to have people on foot walking around, seeing what is happening and keeping in touch.”

Cameras might help “after the fact” but he questioned how much they prevented crime.

There seemed to be a “general desire to put more cameras everywhere,” Mr Beagle said.

“A lot of the street crime tends to be drunks fighting and so on, and they are not really considering the presence of cameras.”

Acting area response manager Detective Sergeant Miriam Reddington said Wanaka was still in a holiday period with a greater population than the out-of-season period.

“There have been more people on the road and in the township, which is expected at this time of year.”

It was hard to say whether calls for service had increased or reduced from previous years, she said, but “on the whole, people have been generally well-behaved with the exception of a few matters.”

“The most serious incident was an assault.”

Roads remained the biggest risk in Wanaka.

The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties was formed after the waterfront disputes of 1951 and is a watchdog for rights and freedoms in New Zealand.