IT’S taken two and a half years, but the wait is finally over – well, almost. The new Hastings CCTV street cameras have been installed and could be switched on later this week.
Western Port area councillor David Garnock said the cameras would be connected by United Energy and tested, then switched on at Hastings police station and “hopefully they will be tuned in and ready to go by next weekend”.
And United Energy says all they need is the “paperwork” from the shire’s electrical retailer before “flicking the switch” – possibly later this week. “This is all managed by the council,” said communications and corporate affairs manager, Stuart Allott. “But, yes, it should be done by the end of the week.”
The shire’s sustainable infrastructure director Alex Atkins told The News the shire was “hopeful of power being provided to the cameras ASAP so that testing can commence before they are switched on for good. The ultimate timing of power connection sits with United Energy, with whom we are in constant communication.”
The nine cameras are on power poles near the foreshore skate park, on the corner of High and Salmon streets, in the car park behind the Westernport Hotel, on the corner of High and Victoria streets, in the car park near Woolworths supermarket and Aldi, in the Coles supermarket car park, outside Hastings police station, and in the Coles supermarket car park pointed at the taxi rank and bus stop in King St.
Frustrations boiled over in the long lead up to the cameras’ debut, with the state’s Crime Prevention Minister, Edward O’Donohue, slamming Mornington Peninsula Shire Council for failing in its commitments to deliver on the CCTV projects in Hastings, Mt Eliza and Mt Martha.
He told Parliament in March the lack of progress in installing a state-government funded CCTV system at Hastings was of “great concern”.
“I am very disappointed that, after all of this time, and with multiple variations to your funding arrangements, council has still not been able to identify and resolve the necessary design issues to enable you to deliver these important projects,” Mr O’Donohue said in a letter to the council and local MPs.
He made reference to the community safety forum following the tragic death of High St. jeweller Dermot O’Toole in July last year and a commitment that the project would be completed before last Christmas. He ‘noted’ that “council’s non-compliance with your current funding agreements may impact upon your eligibility for future funding from the Department of Justice and other government departments”.
However, Mr Atkins hit back last week telling The News the shire had kept the minister “fully informed” of the reasons behind the delays. “Council values the strong working relationship it has with the Minister for Crime Prevention and has kept the minister fully informed of the difficulties being encountered in progressing these projects,” he said.
“Indeed, it was believed that the minister fully understood and appreciated the extensive efforts council was making and the ground-breaking work being done by shire officers in resolving the technical and legal issues involved.”
The shire received grants from the Department of Justice in October 2011 for the three CCTV projects, but negotiations with United Energy have proven frustrating. “They didn’t budge one iota,” Cr Garnock said.
A stalemate over the installation of 240-volt transformers high up on four of UE’s frangible poles – which are designed to crumple when struck in a collision – caused lengthy delays. The company feared drivers may be electrocuted. This problem was solved with the transformers now being placed at the base of the poles.
Later, United Energy’s Stuart Allott said the ball was in the shire’s court as the parties agreed on two possible options at a meeting in March and it was now up to the shire to “determine the approach forward”.
“It’s been one hell of a saga,” Cr Garnock said. “But I am thrilled that the last of the poles are being wired up. Hastings is a bit of a test case and there is a push for other CCTV poles at Mt Eliza, Mt Martha and Rye, but the issues we will face will be the same in these locations.”
The $250,000 Hastings CCTV system, which requires all nine cameras to be installed before it can be switched on, has been funded by the state government under its Community Crime Prevention Program.
The nine poles must be in line of sight so that the images of the furthest poles can be relayed to police. Cameras will be used for recording but will not be monitored 24/7. Footage can be extracted and reviewed after incidents and also can be used in court.
Hastings MP Neil Burgess said the CCTV system would make the town safer. “Hastings is a great place to live, work and raise a family and, although it is already a safe community, the major increase in police numbers and further boost in security provided by the new CCTV system will be welcomed by Hastings residents and businesses.”
The shire recently released a draft CCTV policy for public input. “The purpose of the policy is to provide direction and guidance for the use of CCTV systems in public places for crime solving and crime prevention and the enhancement of public perception of safety,” the shire stated.
Point five may be instructive in explaining the delay: “[The policy will] guide the manner in which the shire seeks funding opportunities for CCTV systems to ensure that all costs are considered.”