Murgon residents have been under secret surveillance by the town’s new CCTV system for the past month, and it has allowed police to have several worthwhile wins in their fight against crime.
This surprising news was announced at a special meeting called by the Murgon Business and Development Association (MBDA) at the Royal Hotel on Monday night to reveal that the town’s new CCTV system was now fully operational, and provide a live demonstration of its capabilities.
About 25 guests watched as other Murgon residents used the Commonwealth Bank ATM or strolled past the Murgon Services Club, blissfully unaware their every move was being overseen by an audience half a block away.
Cars cruising along Lamb Street had their number plates automatically recorded by the system as guests watched. And if anyone had been in the nearby Murgon Skate Park, their presence would have detected by a thermal imaging camera which is also part of the system.
The meeting was compered by security consultant Douglas Grant, who assisted the MBDA on their grant application to the Federal Government’s Safer Communities grant program.
Douglas said the Safer Communities program drew its funds from the proceeds of crime and reinvested them into crime prevention measures in towns around Australia.
The bottom line is that the $369,000 system – which will soon include LED streetlights in Murgon’s CBD to provide even better illumination – has cost the community nothing.
Douglas said he had installed similar systems at Cooroy and the Glasshouse Mountains.
While the whole process of applying for and receiving a grant, drawing up specifications, locating suitable camera sites and calling for tenders had taken about 18 months, Douglas said installation had been relatively quick.
The 54-camera, 17-site wi-fi system had been installed in about eight weeks and for the past month Murgon police had been using it to get comfortable with its extensive capabilities.
Apart from normal cameras and a thermal imaging camera, the system also includes a set of four integrated cameras that can produce a 180-degree view of a 50 metre section of Lamb Street.
All cameras shoot eight megapixel video that provide crisp, high-definition shots.
They also have digital zoom features that allow operators to move in close to items of interest at lightning speed.
Senior Sergeant Lance Guteridge told the audience he had never been a fan of CCTV in the past, and found it usually produced low-quality images that were generally not useful as evidence.
However, local police had been overwhelmed with the new system’s capabilities and the clarity of the video it produced, and had already used it to successfully arrest several offenders.
Snr Sgt Guteridge said he wanted to stress the new system did not incorporate speed cameras; and while it did record number plates, it did not detect cars that might be unregistered or were being driven by unlicensed drivers.
To do this, police had to fall back on their own resources; number plate recognition simply helped them detect stolen cars or other vehicles of interest.
He also wanted to stress that ordinary citizens going about their business had nothing to fear from the system. Police were using it to tackle serious crime, not minor infringements.
“We’re here to catch the baddies, not ordinary people, and I think this will be good for the town,” Snr Sgt Guteridge said.
He also said the existence of the CCTV system did not mean the community no longer had to report incidents to the police.
A super-sized TV screen at the police station now received 24-hour video from all the CCTV cameras but officers still needed to know when and where an incident happened so they could locate video footage of it.
The new system allowed video to be located very quickly but without this knowledge retrieving video footage could take much longer.
MBDA secretary Margaret Long wrapped up the evening by saying she also thought the system would be good for the town.
She believed other South Burnett towns were interested in installing similar systems, and encouraged them to look into it further.