Wellington Council wants volunteers to man police CCTV cameras - what could possibly go wrong?


Chris Keall

Thomas Beagle

Wellington Police and Wellington City Council are looking for about 20 volunteers to monitor the CCTV cameras installed around the central city to prevent crime, they say (see RAW DATA below).

What could possibly go wrong?

"I feel a certain discomfort about the use of volunteers to monitor surveillance cameras but a lot of that is just in relation to the idea that we're being watched all the time, by volunteers or anyone else," Tech Liberty founder Thomas Beagle tells NBR ONLIINE.

It does bring into question the issue of why we've spent all this money installing these cameras if we can't afford to actually monitor them without relying on unpaid labour, Mr Beagle says.

"More importantly, what sort of person volunteers to watch surveillance cameras as unpaid work? Won't this appeal to snoops and voyeurs? There does seem to be potential for blackmail and stalking - or as was famously shown in a study at Hull University, tracking attractive people for voyeuristic purposes."

The Tech Liberty spokesman also asks, "Will these volunteers have control of the cameras and be able to pan and zoom? Can they zoom into apartment windows and other private areas? Will there by any monitoring of their use of the surveillance system? How will we know if they unfairly concentrate and report on certain ethnicities?"

Professional staff are more likely to receive the training and monitoring to ensure they use the system fairly and without prejudice, thereby reducing the potential for abuse, Mr Beagle says.

"The motivations of volunteers is more suspect and they are less likely to receive the training that they need."

NBR has put Tech Liberty's concerns to police and Wellington council.


RAW DATA: WCC release

Wanted: Eagle-eyed Volunteer Crime-fighters

4 October 2013

Wellington Police and Wellington City Council are looking for about 20 volunteers to monitor the CCTV cameras installed around the central city to prevent crime.

If you are naturally inquisitive – but also cool and calm by nature – then this may be an enjoyable and, at times, exciting way of volunteering to help keep the central city a safe place.

The 13 safety cameras are monitored from an office in the Central Police Station in Victoria Street.

The cameras are there to record and report any incidents as they happen and are a valuable tool for the Police to prevent and reduce crime or disorderly behaviour including burglary, assault and vandalism.

Wellington Police Community Services Manager Matt Boyce says: “We are looking for people who can give up some of their spare time to help prevent crime and make the central city a safer place to live, work and play. Volunteers learn new skills, get to meet and work with new people and give something back to the community.”

The existing roster of volunteers come from all walks of life including retired people, local apartment dwellers, office workers, journalists and business owners. The volunteers do the monitoring of the screens – thus freeing up uniformed Police staff to get out and about on the ‘front line’.

Volunteers typically work in pairs so if you have a friend or partner who would be suitable, why not encourage them to apply as well.

Potential volunteers will receive an information pack which includes introductory information and all relevant Police check forms and code of conduct guides.

Training will be provided by Police and a volunteer co-ordinator.

Other attributes that would make a good volunteer for monitoring duties include:

  • honesty and integrity, and an ability to maintain confidentiality
  • good command of English language – both verbal and written. Volunteers have to respond quickly and clearly describe what they see in writing (via computer keyboard) and verbally (by phone) to help staff in the Police control room
  • an ability to do at least two shifts every month – these are generally 3 to 6 hours. Shifts would be mainly at night but they can be arranged to suit the volunteer.

People interested in volunteering for these duties should contact Matt Boyce on 04 381 2000 or via Volunteer Wellington, tel 04 499 4570.


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2 Comments & Questions

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I would only volunteer to pull a Snowden on this creepy muppet headed idea...

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Guys you have nothing to worry about unless you are up to no good yourself. Cameras inTaupo have worked well on reducing crime in the CBD. They are manned by volunteers who do an excellent job. All volunteers are well past the age of there being any worry of them wanting to stalk anyone, and are themselves critiqued by the police. If you are worried about cameras, do not visit the UK or USA.

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