FREMANTLE council has received almost $1 million in funding from Canberra to purchase and install a slew of surveillance cameras across the city.
Included in the package will be five fixed and several mobile cameras that will read car number plates then text the information through to WA Police to help search for people with outstanding warrants or stolen vehicles.
The records would be stored for 30 days before being deleted and the council says only police will have access to the data.
Acting mayor Ingrid Waltham said privacy was a key consideration for the council when adopting its CCTV strategy this week.
“The use of CCTV in Fremantle is guided by the WA government’s State CCTV Strategy, and all of our operations are conducted in accordance with the leading state, national and international practice,” Cr Waltham said.
But that wasn’t enough assurance for councillor Sam Wainwright, who recorded the only “nay” against accepting the federal cash.
“The main concern was the possibility that in some point in the future this network of cameras could be plugged into the facial recognition technology of the Department of Home Affairs,” Cr Wainwright said.
The socialist says he doesn’t want to appear a luddite or fear-monger and says cameras have their place, but is concerned the council’s agreement with the police could allow a future state government to bypass the council and hand control of the camera data to the federal government.
“We are already drifting towards a surveillance state,” he says.
“If that’s the way we are going, we need to have a talk about that at a national level.
“I am not assured by the current facial recognition controls,” Cr Wainwright said.
But Cr Waltham says the council’s main concern was keeping the city safe.
“Fremantle is a great place for the whole family to come and enjoy, but our community survey last year showed community safety was an area our residents wanted us to continue to focus on,” she said.
The funding will help fund 25 fixed high-definition cameras with a 360-degree view, two CCTV trailers and optic fibre to connect the network.
by STEVE GRANT and WADE ZAGLAS