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University to seek students’ views on CCTV

Monday, 15 May 2017 2:21pm

CCTV-image
The University is seeking student feedback on a plan to extend CCTV coverage into the streets around the Dunedin campus.

The University of Otago has met with the Dunedin City Council and Police, and is hoping to hear back from students, before progressing a proposal to place cameras overlooking streets to the north and to the south of the campus to increase safety and property security in the area.

The Dunedin City Council and Police have both given their support to the plan, saying the mere presence of the cameras would improve safety for people in the student quarter, and also act as a crime prevention tool.

Dunedin Police Area Prevention Manager for Otago Coastal, Acting Inspector Ben Butterfield supports the University’s initiative to improve the safety of the North Dunedin community.

“Dunedin Police are committed to working with our partners in the community to make Dunedin a safe place to live, work and study,” he says.

"The installation of CCTV cameras will act as a good deterrent against this type of criminal behaviour and will assist us during our investigations when offending in this area does happen."

“All too often students and other residents in the North Dunedin area are a target for numerous crimes, including burglaries and assaults. The installation of CCTV cameras will act as a good deterrent against this type of criminal behaviour and will assist us during our investigations when offending in this area does happen.”

The phased introduction of the cameras in two zones of streets is part of a proposal currently being investigated by the University, which is still to receive feedback from students. Under the proposal, and if final approval is given, the first roll-out – Phase One of the project – would occur later this year.

Phase One of the project would see cameras installed covering the north of the campus, surrounding Castle, Leith and Dundas Streets, and south of the campus, surrounding Frederick, Leith, Grange and Albany Streets. The first phase has an estimated project cost of $625,000.

The following year, it is hoped that more cameras, to be focused on zones to the east, covering Clyde, Union and Dundas Streets, and west of the campus, covering George, Queen, Albany, Park and surrounding streets, would be installed. The estimated cost of buying and installing cameras in these areas is $650,000.

The footage from the cameras would be able to be reviewed by only three authorised University of Otago Proctor’s Office staff when incidents are reported or occur, according to a new CCTV University policy currently being developed. Students are also able to have input on that policy.

A strict process is envisaged for when the CCTV footage needs to be reviewed and potentially used to help solve crime. The process would mean people requesting footage to be reviewed by the Proctor would fill out a form, which would need to meet certain criteria before being authorised for the Proctor to review. The Police would also have to follow a set process when requesting the footage be reviewed. This is how footage taken from the campus area is currently accessed, and this system has worked over a number of years. The University would also keep a separate register of who and why footage is accessed, with the register reviewed by the Proctor monthly.

A camera was installed on a University building overlooking Hyde Street in early February 2016, and nominated Proctor’s Office staff review the feed if there is an incident. Cameras have so far assisted residents who have reported thefts and damage to property or vehicles. Footage was also instrumental in identifying two offenders after a serious assault on Hyde Street.

"For residents and people not doing anything unlawful or harmful to others, they have nothing to worry about – we won’t be interested."

The street-focused cameras would be in addition to the 400 mostly internal (in building) cameras in total in and around the Dunedin campus, with about 18 of these already focused outwards on public streets or campus walkways.

Deputy Proctor Andy Ferguson says the main purpose of the camera project is to “keep our students, staff and local community safe and prevent behaviour, particularly from non-students attracted to the area, that causes harm to others.”

“For residents and people not doing anything unlawful or harmful to others, they have nothing to worry about – we won’t be interested. It is simply another tool, another pair of eyes, no different to when a Campus Watch staff member has seen something that shouldn’t be happening on their regular walks around campus,” he says.

“Hopefully the cameras just by themselves will have a preventative effect on crime in this area, and will provide a sense of safety, as reported in other cities where CCTV is deployed.”

The University has been encouraged by reports that the CCTV cameras in the Octagon have noticeably reduce crime and disorder and are keeping people safe.

Mr Ferguson reiterated that people found committing serious offences may face criminal prosecution in cases where Police and the Fire Service are involved.

However, as the Police statistics from 2015-2016 revealed, the majority of the serious disorderly and concerning behaviour in Dunedin is being perpetrated by non-students.

Vice-Chancellor and COO keen for student views on CCTV

The University’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Willis and Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne are very keen to work with OUSA to seek students’ views about CCTV in North Dunedin.

Professor Hayne says the initiative is motivated by the University’s ongoing concerns about student safety.

"The plan for CCTV has not been finalised because we were waiting for input from students, including OUSA ..."

“Mr Willis has been working to find ways in which the University can work effectively with students to seek their views on a wide range of initiatives. We are happy to use the CCTV project to trial such a system. The plan for CCTV has not been finalised because we were waiting for input from students, including OUSA, which began last Monday with a visit to the OUSA executive group from the Deputy Proctor Andy Ferguson. I have now officially written to the OUSA executive and asked them to contact me and Mr Willis with a proposed plan for consultation.

“However, I also note that OUSA is one stakeholder, and Mr Willis and I would like to hear from a wide range of students on this issue. We are open to suggestions on how to go about hearing students’ views. The CCTV initiative is about protecting students and their property. We have done substantial work in this area and in my view, CCTV is the best way to keep our students safe. But if someone can come up with an alternative idea, I’m all ears.”

She says the CCTV proposal reminds her of the introduction of Campus Watch some years ago.

“Although some staff and students were initially suspicious about the University’s intention, this service is now one of the most highly rated initiatives we have at Otago because people understand the important role that Campus Watch plays in keeping students safe. No other university in New Zealand offers this level of pastoral care to their students.”