The impact of CCTV cameras on crime has produced noticeable results in Hutt City, thanks in part to a team of volunteers behind the monitors.
Their work was recognised at the annual Hutt City Community Awards in the Town Hall last week when the Hutt City CCTV Operators picked up the Safe City Organisation Award.
Co-ordinator Peter Clarke accepted the award on behalf of the group of about 35, and says the team does a vital job.
"I think it's fantastic what they do. I'm a volunteer too, I know the commitment they put in."
Team members work at a high- tech monitor station scanning for anything unusual. Cameras in downtown Lower Hutt, Naenae, Wainuiomata and Stokes Valley are manned during most afternoons and evenings and sometimes overnight.
"If we're monitoring we can use the camera system to pretty much check the colour of your eyes, but if we're not monitoring the cameras are automatically rotating about every two minutes," Mr Clark says.
They are always recording, and footage is kept for three months.
Constable Andy Baker say the CCTV system was started about 12 years ago in response to ongoing problems outside some licensed premises.
"The contribution that they have made, especially to public place safety and violence . . . they've definitely made contributions here, that's clear.
"We've been able to address some of those issues."
The team is based inside the Lower Hutt police station and works closely with police.
The Lower Hutt CCTV operators have developed a "very professional operation", Mr Clarke says. Their systems and training are now being used as a model for similar organisations throughout the country.
From the start of this year to the end of last month volunteers have put in 858 hours. In May alone they logged 36 incidents and contributed to 10 apprehensions.
"It doesn't prevent crime," Mr Clarke says.
"What it does is speed up the prosecution process, because when you're faced with that sort of evidence you might as well plead guilty."
Mr Baker says live footage is an invaluable tool for police prosecutors.
"There's nothing really like seeing the images of what has happened yourself.
"And if you have a recording there in front of the judge or even the accused, it's very hard to explain yourself out of your actions."
The team also play a preventative role, keeping an eye on "little old ladies" as they walk to their car at night, for example.
They are also an important part of the multi-agency strategy to fight underage drinking in the city centre.
Hutt City currently has 26 operating cameras, including two new ones installed last week. Another is soon to be added to the grid.
The Safe City Individual Award was made to Chris Martin. Her role with police has led to the establishment of "a very strong family violence network in the Hutt Valley, Ahuru Mowai O Te Awakairangi", organisers say.
The Safe City Alcohol Harm Minimisation Award was made to The Empire bar, Petone, for the second year running. The bar's proactive and responsible approach is "a real example of how alcohol can be part of our society without it having negative impacts in people's lives".
The Lower Hutt Police Area Commander's Award went to Helen Winter. Since 2005 Sergeant Winter has worked to combat family violence with her efforts "to network across the various agencies, break down barriers. She has established systems and processes along with important relationships, and she has made a difference".
- Hutt News