CCTV watching notorious Otago Uni party street, more cameras likely
The University of Otago is eyeing up more CCTV for Dunedin's student quarter, following confirmation it was behind a camera watching a popular party street.
A CCTV camera, installed on a University-owned building on Albany St in early February, was monitoring Hyde St — home to the annual keg party.
However many students on the street were not aware of the camera, despite The Office of the Privacy Commissioner recommending people be made aware of CCTV, while others expressed concern over it watching their every movement.
One, who declined to be named, said Campus Watch officers joked about the camera being "big brother".
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There was talk on the street about a possible petition to have the camera removed, he said.
Deputy Proctor Andy Ferguson confirmed the camera was one of 18 watching public streets or public walkways, and was part of a network of 400 cameras, most inside university buildings.
The University was planning a proposal to the Dunedin City Council and police to roll out more cameras in public places around campus streets, "to keep residents safe and deter dangerous and antisocial behaviour, such as lighting fires".
That was likely to include the notorious Castle St, with cameras already on nearby Abbey College.
Cameras on the street recently identified non-students arriving in two cars to light fires, before leaving in their cars.
"Unfortunately as of today, the footage has not led to enough evidence to individually identify the alleged offenders. However, we are still hopeful these offenders will be caught," said Ferguson.
He said the cameras were intended "mainly as a deterrent" and were reviewed following incidents.
"The statistics for fire lighting in Hyde St are, as a consequence, well down on the previous year due to this camera's preventative effect alone. We were also recently able to positively assist Police over the alleged theft of a bike in this street."
Ferguson said police needed a search warrant or similar legal authority following suspected or alleged criminal activity.
As the Hyde St camera viewed a public place, "we have not needed to notify students directly".
"For residents and people not doing anything unlawful or harmful to others, they have nothing to worry about – we won't be interested. It is simply another tool, another pair of eyes, no different to when a campus watch staff member has seen something that shouldn't be happening on their regular walks around campus.
"It is well documented in many cities that CCTV succeeds as a deterrent, and recent fires over the weekend, and during Orientation week, highlight that there is a strong need for this type of safety measure here.
"If there were no fires, then we might not need to do this. But there have been, and we have a duty of care to protect people living here. Despite some recent assertions in the media, couch burning is not an established old Otago tradition at all. It was more of a fad of recent years – one that is fortunately dying out, going by the number of fires which are trending down.
"Lighting fires is stupid behaviour that leads to people being killed, and has no place among the activities and traditions that Otago prides itself on."