Life through a lens: The function, value and future of CCTV cameras in Australia

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems play an important role in the management of urban space and the provision of public safety. The prevalence of CCTV in Australia is only likely to increase with the Australian Government committing $50 million to its Safer Streets Programme, a three-year crime prevention initiative.

A key feature of Safer Streets is to provide funding for the installation of fixed and mobile CCTV systems and lighting. The program aims to enhance community safety and address the needs of local retail and entertainment premises and commercial precincts experiencing high rates of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Although CCTV cameras and networks are becoming prominent features of the urban environment, the public have limited scope to discover how these systems actually operate in practice and influence life on the ground. In particular, there are common misconceptions about how much they cost to run, what kinds of hardware and software they incorporate, how effective they are in tackling crime and fear of crime, what purposes they serve, and how they transform social relations and urban experiences.

This forum brings together expert panellists with varied perspectives on CCTV to share their insights and to discuss its function, value and components. The panel will address the general contribution CCTV makes to public safety and to the theatre of criminal justice, and whether this justifies the resource expenditure and organisational faith that is placed in these fascinating, if controversial, monitoring technologies. It will also serve as a quasi-launch for Dr Smith's recent book on the texturing of CCTV monitoring lifeworlds.

Forum participants

Forum chair:

Professor Jacqueline Lo, Acting Director of the ANU Research School of Social Sciences and Director of the ANU Centre for European Studies

Forum panellists:

Dr Gavin Smith, Senior Lecturer, School of Sociology, ANU
Professor Fatih Porikli, Leader, Computer Vision Research Group, NICTA
Dr Rick Brown, Deputy Director, Australian Institute of Criminology

Forum discussant:

Professor Pat O’Malley, Honorary Professor, Sydney Law School

Book launch

This event will also serve as a launch for Dr Smith’s recent book, Opening the Black Box: The Work of Watching (Routledge, 2014), which explores how CCTV camera operators in the UK sourced and processed images of disorder, and how this work affected their sense of identity and perceptions of reality.

Copies of this book will be available for sale at a discount price.

Light refreshments and snacks will be available in the foyer immediately after the event.

Please register to attend this event

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