Security video cameras, private security guards and electronic surveillance by national security agencies have become pervasive during the last decade in Australia and around the world in our cities, on public transport and inside public as well as private buildings.
I counted 25 surveillance cameras during my commute from home to the Exhibition Centre in Darling Harbour while taking some of the photos in this story.
The NSW Police Force states that it supports programs that aim to reduce or prevent crime and believes that CCTV can be an effective crime prevention program when it is part of a broader crime prevention and community safety strategy.
American computer security specialist Bruce Schneier warns that
“It’s comforting to imagine vigilant police monitoring every camera, but … most CCTV footage is never looked at until well after a crime is committed. When it is examined, it’s very common for the viewers not to identify suspects”.
“But the question really isn’t whether cameras reduce crime; the question is whether they’re worth it. And given their cost … their limited effectiveness, the potential for abuse … and their Orwellian effects on privacy and civil liberties, most of the time they’re not. The funds spent on CCTV cameras would be far better spent on hiring experienced police officers. We live in a unique time in our society: the cameras are everywhere, and we can still see them. Ten years ago, cameras were much rarer than they are today. And in 10 years, they’ll be so small you won’t even notice them”.
The NSW Police force operates a voluntary business CCTV register. There is no obligation for registered organisations to provide information however the Police appreciate access to footage from CCTV systems installed in or around the area where an offence has occurred.
The private security industry is regulated by Australian states and territories. As an example under the NSW Security Industry Act it is an offence to carry on unauthorised security activities.
“Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes” is a Latin phrase which loosely translates to “Who will guard the guards themselves?”. As the security industry grows larger in size and influence it is important that its activities are closely scrutinised by government regulators and the media.
This blogpost contains some information from a photo gallery article I was commissioned to create for the Chief Security Officer (IDG News) website.