THE CITY of Greater Bendigo has clarified procedures for CCTV footage at 25 locations around Bendigo despite ongoing concerns about the council's capacity to protect privacy.
That includes giving police clearer guidance for what they can use the network of 148 cameras for.
The changes were triggered by a Victorian Auditor General's report that found the state's councils needed to better show communities how they were using CCTV systems.
Bendigo began using CCTV cameras in 1998 but the number of downloads of vision skyrocketed after the network was expanded in 2017.
Police reported 181 downloads of footage and 155 suspects identified for the 2018/19 financial year.
"This is a dramatic increase of usage with 2017/18 seeing 14 downloads from the old system and six suspects being identified," council officers said in a report ahead of Monday night's meeting.
One councillor feared the council was not making an informed decision.
He argued that even if CCTV could be useful during large events and for investigating crime, it was unclear whether the technology had brought less damage to public assets.
"Any such intrusive technology should be subject to hard evidence before it's implemented. Yet very little evidence exists," he said.
"We know Victoria police identified 155 suspects ... yet we do not know whether this led to any convictions or what alleged crimes were involved. We simply do not have this information.
"And despite the fact that we own the cameras and bear the cost of their upkeep and replacement, we have no power to request police give us this information."
Cr Fagg said the policy could be sharpened by showing how the network's effectiveness could be proven, demanding police pay half the costs, increased transparency about where cameras were located and stronger measures for Bendigo officers to share relevant statistics.
"This policy is obviously geared towards future increases in the number and geographic spread of CCTV and we need ways to limit this if they do not demonstrate a reduction and prevention of crime," he said.
Cr Fagg did not put his suggestions up for a vote, so his ideas were not added to the policy proposal.
Cr Marg O'Rourke said those concerns were warranted and that more work was needed on CCTV, but believed the new policy was a good start.
"The city's CCTV network will operate fairly, within applicable law and only for the purpose for which it was established," she said.
Councillor Andrea Metcalf supported the new policy but conceded privacy concerns could influence people's privacy concerns.
"Most would be comfortable with sharing footage from the CCTV cameras with Victoria Police to protect people's safety and reduce instances of anti-social behavior," she said.
"This policy does not apply to the use of CCTV used by other parties such as local businesses or private owners.".
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