SAFE CITY?: Criminologist Professor Tim Prenzler says data doesn't support Ipswich City Council's claims about crime reduction but the council has stood by its CCTV network saying it directly contributed to 1123 arrests since 2013.
SAFE CITY?: Criminologist Professor Tim Prenzler says data doesn't support Ipswich City Council's claims about crime reduction but the council has stood by its CCTV network saying it directly contributed to 1123 arrests since 2013. Nadine Shaw

Expert slams council Safe City CCTV claims

A RESPECTED Queensland criminologist says there is no evidence Ipswich's network of surveillance cameras has reduced crime.

Sunshine Coast University's Professor Tim Prenzler has reviewed 30 years of data associated with the Ipswich City Council Safe City network.

His work, summarised in an academic paper to be submitted to a UK crime journal, found claims made by various Ipswich councillors about the network's impact on crime were not supported by any data.

In February, as the council was considering installing new cameras, it said the network had "proved a major success in keeping Ipswich safe".

"Since 1994, there had been more than 9700 arrests as a direct result of Safe City's observations and actions," a council press release stated.

"There have also been over 7500 reviews of footage and more than 5000 images released to police for investigation and prosecution purposes."

Yet police data shows no significant shift in Ipswich crime rates.

Prof Prenzler, who was repeatedly denied access by the council to any council Safe City data during his study, labelled the Ipswich case a "mystery of failed crime prevention".

"The data from the council indicates that footage from the cameras may have assisted police in arrests, but this does not translate into convictions nor does it translate into a higher crime clearance rate from the program compared to other locations in Queensland," Prof Prenzler said.

 

Professor Tim Prenzler, Program Coordinator, Bachelor of Criminology and Justice School of Law, University of the Sunshine Coast.
Professor Tim Prenzler, Program Coordinator, Bachelor of Criminology and Justice School of Law, University of the Sunshine Coast.

He said, in theory, the network's significant coverage and frequent contact with police should have resulted in an effective system, however, the study found no cause-and-effect relationship between the expanding network and the rate of cases solved.

In October 2014, at the 20th anniversary of the Safe City Program's launch, former mayor Paul Pisasale said there had been "a reduction in incidents of crime by 70 per cent", one of many similar statements over the years.

Available police crime data shows crime and clearance rates in Ipswich are on par with other areas. Case clearance rates in Ipswich are marginally higher than in Logan City, which launched its own CCTV network in 2001.

Queensland Police said the Safe City network was regularly used as a tool to "assist with the detection of offenders for serious crimes including arson, armed robbery, theft, wilful damage, and assaults" with the weekend's fire at the old RACQ building on the corner of Roderick St offering a recent example.

The QT has requested more police data, to be provided within 10 weeks, although, the council says comparisons of data with citywide or Ipswich police district data cannot be made "owing to geographical limitations of camera coverage".

Ipswich City Council was the first local government in Queensland to establish a CCTV network with the first cameras installed in 1994.

The system was launched in response to an increase in crime in Ipswich CBD including assaults, thefts, alcohol related incidents, drugs, and volatile substance abuse, the council says.

The program began with about 13 cameras in Ipswich city centre which monitored "known hot spots of activity", a council spokesperson said.

Today there are about 300 cameras in the network.

The Safe City network has been heralded across the country by the Local Government community as an example of the successful use of CCTV in preventing and reducing crime.

When asked, Ipswich council stood by its "public safety" CCTV system saying success had been achieved through its early and on-going partnerships with the Queensland Police Service.

The council would not say how much money had been spent on the CCTV network since 1994. In 2011-2012 an expansion - four cameras covering Rosewood and Walloon - cost $650,000, with $400,000 funded by ratepayers and $250,000 from the Federal Government.

Safe City aids in 1123 arrests since 2013: council says

THE council claims observations via its Safe City Network of cameras has directly led to 1123 arrests since 2013.

According to Ipswich City Council, there has been a remarkable reduction in public nuisance offences within the area covered by the Safe City Cameras, down to about 120 offences in 2016 from about 325 in 2013.

The council's data also shows a significant drop in assaults from almost 100 offences in 2013 to just under 50 in 2017.

Police data shows Ipswich crime rates following a similar trajectory to the rest of the state. The number of assault offences per 100,000 population in Ipswich, for the 2016-2017 year, is 414.

The same figures for Brisbane are 283, however, Ipswich's figures are more impressive the Queensland average at 457.

Queensland Police figures also indicate minimal difference between crime clearance rates in Ipswich and the rest of the state.

Clearance rates means police were able to solve the crime.

In 2001, the Ipswich clearance rate for offences against the person was 62.1 per cent. In 2010, that improved to 75 per cent, however, the trajectory over those years follows the same pattern as the rest of the state.



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