Crimebuster on job

WATCHFUL EYE: Onehunga CCTV operator Satia and community policing team sergeant Rhys Smith.
WATCHFUL EYE: Onehunga CCTV operator Satia and community policing team sergeant Rhys Smith.

Getting away with crime in Onehunga isn't easy.

A broad network of CCTV cameras operated by the Onehunga Business Association in conjunction with police has been keeping a watchful eye over the town centre for the last two years.

And it is proving its worth.

"We haven't really advertised it a lot because we wanted to make sure what it brings is value," association manager Amanda Kinzett says.

Onehunga is one of a small handful of Auckland town centres with its own CCTV network.

What makes it unique is that it is monitored by one dedicated security guard, a woman named Satia.

"That's the key. She gets to know who the trouble-makers are, so when they come in we watch them and see what they're up to," Ms Kinzett says.

There are 27 cameras in the network which are monitored during the day and continue to record through the night.

Satia is often a step ahead of trouble after hours.

"The other week she was watching a group and they just didn't look right.

"We got the police there and there was a fight organised.

"We prevented that fight from happening," Ms Kinzett says.

It's also the things that might normally go unnoticed that are getting picked up.

"One of our local vagrants was at the bus stop and we noticed he was talking to this girl who was looking horrendously uncomfortable so Satia went and sat with her until the bus arrived," she says.

"The poor girl was beside herself, she was on the phone crying to her mum.

"It is those sorts of things that help make our community feel safe."

CCTV needs to be monitored to be wholly effective, Onehunga community policing team sergeant Rhys Smith says.

"Satia's recognition of faces is amazing.

"In one case we got a 111 call about some guys trying to break into a car.

"She'd seen the suspects matching the description about 30 minutes before, so she tracked them back from the cameras and sure enough they were spotted in a side street.

"She emailed us through a snapshot and and we got them."

In another case she spotted a man police thought was responsible for a bike theft a year earlier.

"I didn't know what she was talking about for a few minutes until she jogged my memory."

Satia says there are no "tricks" to her success rate.

"It's about knowing my cameras and knowing which one links up to which.

"If you lose them on one, you know where they'll go next," she says.

The network was installed in response to vehicles being stolen and or broken into around the town centre.

Initially there were 10 cameras and the association worked with the police to find the problem spots, Ms Kinzett says.

"There are still a few areas we need to cover which are a bit concerning and we're getting there but it's not cheap."

She says visitors to the town centre don't need to be concerned about privacy.

Satia is a licensed security guard and the system works within legal requirements.

"For the general public it's about trying to keep them and their possessions safe and trying to identify people who might be trying to take that away from them," she says.

Central Leader