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City cameras ‘working very well’

Around 30 CCTV cameras are placed in and around Gisborne city.

“They are working very well,” said Gisborne Crime Prevention Camera Trust coordinator Ken Huberts.

The camera trust administers the cameras, which are operated from the police station.

Volunteers go in at key times to monitor the cameras.

It is about being proactive rather than reactive, said Mr Huberts.

“I certainly think their presence has reduced crime.”

And as a crime-prevention tool the footage from the cameras is used several times on a daily basis.

“A picture tells a thousand words,” he said.

The cameras cover most of the main arterial routes, key intersections and key hospitality areas.

When police put together a case, footage from these cameras can be a piece of the puzzle, with things like footage of vehicles.

“It is a very valuable tool,” said Mr Huberts.

A former volunteer of the Gisborne Crime Prevention Camera Trust said he believed the CCTV cameras in the city have reduced crime.

“People know the cameras are there. It has been effective.”

Camera trust chair Pat Seymour said the cameras were critical in the part they played for the safety of the inner city.

The location of the cameras was always at the request of the police, she said.

“The police determine the need for cameras based on the knowledge they have.”

The cameras extend to the suburbs. There is one on Aberdeen Road by a walkbridge often used as a “fast exit” by people who have committed a crime.

The initial funding for the CCTV cameras and set up was $300,000. It was granted in 2005 by the Eastland Community Trust (ECT) during Gary Alexander's time as chairman.

That paid for the first six cameras, and the IT component, to be installed.

Chubb won the tender and set up an example of the system in the old police station so other potential funders could see the benefits.

Since then, the increase in the number of cameras used, and updates to the technology have largely been funded by the philanthropic sector, said Mrs Seymour.

“Sometimes we are able to secure donations from nearby businesses that might benefit but usually it is the philanthropic sector.”

Mrs Seymour, also a District Councillor, said Gisborne District Council had made a contribution to the repairs and maintenance of the system, along with the Police and the former Heart of Gisborne, and inner city ratepayers.

“But they are looking in this next 10-year plan to provide financial support for the operation of the cameras.

“The volunteers are hugely important to the successful operation of the cameras. They give an enormous number of hours, right through to the early hours of the morning.”

Mrs Seymour said it wasn't always high crime caught on camera but it was a valuable tool for the police to assist them in their work to keep the city safe.

Tairawhiti Area Commander Inspector Sam Aberahama agreed.

Prevention was the key, he said.

“It's been a long-standing partnership and I feel quite privileged to have support from Ken, the trust and the team of volunteers.”

Stills from the camera footage were used for evidence up to seven times a month.

Insp Aberahama said the amount of prevention work by police might not be noticed by the public but it was something he was proud of.

“We don't want there to be a fight — prevention is the key.

“Once upon a time it was all about catching crooks, but now police are out there, they are more visible and we try to make sure we are there at the right place and the right time.”

Insp Aberahama said when he arrived in Tairawhiti 10 years ago, the CCTV cameras would show the CBD at 2am as busy as a Saturday morning shopping day.

“There were so many people on our streets. We have done a whole lot of work as a community, together with Oranga Tamariki and the Gisborne District Council, to reduce the number of young people on our streets at that time.

“I'm proud to live here and to know that, actually, we overcame these issues a few years ago.”

■ The Gisborne Crime Prevention Camera Trust is always looking for volunteers. Anyone interested can e-mail manager@GCPCT.org.nz

WATCHING: Gisborne Crime Prevention Camera Trust coordinator Ken Huberts sits in front of the screens that beam footage from the city's 30 CCTV cameras to a central room in the Gisborne police station building. Mr Hubert and around 25 volunteers keep watch, with footage captured a valuable tool for police. Picture by Paul Rickard