Schoolgirl disappearance exposes shire video farce
THE DISAPPEARANCE of a schoolgirl in Duidgee Park has exposed serious flaws in the town’s video security camera system, which is owned and maintained by the Shire of Toodyay and monitored by local police.
The young teenager was reported missing after school last month, and local police inquiries traced her to Duidgee Park.
The area, which includes public toilets and a children’s playground, is monitored by a shire video security camera that mostly points in the wrong direction – including at roofs and trees – and often sticks in the same position for long periods.Read more
By chance, the CCTV camera momentarily captured a shot of a 4WD vehicle which was driven away by an unidentified man.
Officers used a multi-screen display at Toodyay police station to replay a video recording which briefly captured the vehicle‘s registration number.
“We were lucky because that camera is useless most of the time – it hops about everywhere, including at the sky, which provides little assistance to us,” police said.
The registration number was sent to metropolitan police who located the vehicle in an outer Perth suburb where the girl was recovered unharmed and the man assisted police with their inquiries.
Toodyay police have long been frustrated that three shire video security cameras at key town locations haven’t worked properly on and off for years and often fail to capture vital evidence that could help solve local crimes.
In addition, one end of town has been left unguarded for more than 12 months because the shire has installed only one of two new cameras with advanced vehicle number plate recognition capability that it bought last year.
Councillors are understood to have raised concerns about faulty cameras with Shire CEO Stan Scott several times over the past two years.
Mr Scott is currently undergoing a $20,000 performance review conducted by an independent Perth consultant and is on a month’s leave until November 26.
“There’s always a different reason given why the cameras don’t work properly and that isn’t good enough,” one councillor said.
“We’ve already spent money on it and it needs to be sorted quickly.”
Shire President Brian Rayner criticised The Herald for asking about the shire cameras.
“The Herald often gets things wrong,” he said.
“It is not for the public to know that the cameras are not working.”
He also blamed an unnamed councillor for wanting shire rates to be cut while the council was voting in August to spend another $20,000 on video security cameras.
President Rayner said he was waiting for local police to say where they want new cameras installed but provided no explanation for why the shire’s existing cameras haven’t worked properly for the past two years despite repeated requests by councillors to get them fixed.
Cr Bill Manning criticised a four-paragraph statement issued by President Rayner the previous day which failed to answer any of The Herald’s questions, including how much ratepayers’ money has been spent on buying and installing cameras that don’t work properly, and asking when will they be fixed.
“Brian, this is not a time for meaningless platitudes,” Cr Manning responded in an email copied to all councillors.
“I agree with other councillors that this matter needs to be fixed urgently.”
The Herald’s questions are expected to lead to the matter being added to the agenda for a shire forum due to be held at 4pm on Tuesday November 13.
“I hope it will be discussed publicly,” one councillor said.