Cairns CCTV leads way in assault reduction
A researcher from James Cook University’s Cairns Institute will meet with Local Government Minister David Crisafulli this week to explain how Cairns’ closed-circuit television (CCTV) system interrupted 40 per cent of late-night assaults.
Senior Research Officer Boris Pointing will unveil his findings to Mr Crisafulli in Brisbane tomorrow (Wednesday) after undertaking a study of Cairns’ CCTV system in conjunction with Cairns Regional Council and community safety stakeholders.
Mr Pointing said he would also be meeting with Cairns MP Gavin King and Barron River MP Michael Trout in Brisbane, and would explain how further research could lead to improved CCTV systems, and therefore reduced assaults, in other urban areas across Queensland and beyond.
“The Cairns Institute’s research grew out of a partnered study to decrease alcohol-related assaults in Cairns’ late-night entertainment precinct,” Mr Pointing said.
“The city is a major national and international tourist destination, and visitors, as well as residents, enjoy the city’s diverse nightlife.
“To help reduce assaults in the CBD area, Cairns Regional Council asked us to look at a range of their CCTV practices in regards to governance and human practices in the camera room.
“There is underlying uncertainty about what makes CCTV work, and we were focused on the human systems behind the technology – for example, pre-empting assaults by getting camera operators to recognise potentially aggressive behaviours.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting with Mr Crisafulli, Mr King and Mr Trout to explain how Cairns has established world-class CCTV operation standards, contributing to less alcohol-related assaults.
“I’ll also be presenting The Cairns Institute’s audit and evaluation method of improving CCTV system governance, based on academic research published in journals such as Crime Prevention and Community Safety, Security and Injury Prevention.”
The Realist Evaluation method for CCTV operation, used by The Cairns Institute, was recently recommended by the Australian Institute of Criminology as the most effective way for local government to assess the effectiveness of their CCTV systems.
Mr Pointing said that further research into CCTV room operations could help further reduce the number of assaults in other CBD areas across Queensland and throughout Australia – for example, in key nightspots such as Fortitude Valley in Brisbane.
“Our method provides a rigorous approach to continuous quality improvement with partner councils in order to refine and achieve community safety outcomes,” Mr Pointing said.
“We see our methodologies as being completely transferrable for open-space, council-managed CCTV systems aimed at reducing assault and disorder in night-time communities.
“In fact, I truly believe that with some fine-tuning, Cairns can be a model for other regional cities across Australia.
“The Cairns study has been really interesting, as we looked at the individual camera operators and what catches their attention in the CBD, and gets them to notify on-street security.
“Cairns has 90 cameras, including 73 in the CBD, but cameras alone are not the answer. If they’re not operated properly from a human perspective, then you’re not maximising their potential.”
Mr Pointing said the Cairns Institute’s research showed that the Cairns system interrupted 40 per cent of assaults in the CBD when operating the system effectively, which works out to about 200 fewer assaults each year.
“People should be able to go out at night without worrying about being assaulted, and an effective CCTV operation can help achieve this,” he said.
Mr Pointing is conducting further research into: improving capacity of CCTV to provide useful information to liquor accords; patron views on CCTV deterrance; capacity of CCTV to interrupt assault sequences; Emergency Department staff safety, data collection and public health collaboration.
Mr Pointing is also set to release a paper over the coming months on an economic analysis of the direct costs of assaults in the Cairns night-time economy.
Issued November 13, 2012
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