Friday, July 21, 2006

Oxford Street on TV

Cameras to record anti-gay violence Cath Pope, GAY.COM Thursday 20 July, 2006

Last week following a meeting with business and community leaders, a council plan to install a series of closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on Sydney, Australia's Oxford Street to curb continuing anti-gay violence gained approval from community groups and local businesses. The City of Sydney’s council plan involves the operation of seven CCTV cameras in areas along Sydney’s famous gay strip identified by police as ‘trouble hotspots’.

The plan, which appears highly likely to gain council approval, could see the Oxford St cameras in operation before the end of the year. According to a spokesperson for the City of Sydney, the CCTV proposal is a definite initiative aimed at decreasing the level of homophobic violence experienced by the large gay and lesbian community centred around the Oxford Street precinct. The spokesperson said the cameras would focus on monitoring assaults and the drug trade but wouldn’t target drug users or sex workers. Footage would be destroyed after 21 days if not required by police. Danger areas already identified by police as suitable locations include an area near Oxford, Commonwealth and College St; Oxford and Pelican St; Oxford and Riley St; Oxford and Crown St; Oxford and Bourke St; Oxford and Forbes St overlooking Taylor Square; and Bourke St also overlooking Taylor Square.

So far the CCTV proposal has the support of ACON and local retailers’ group Darlinghurst Business Partnership, however both organisations are firm on their position that the placement of cameras will provide only part of the solution to the crime-riddled area. Darlinghurst Business Partnership is also urging council not to use the cameras to monitor entry to sex-on-premises venues.

Long-time Oxford Street retailer and Darlinghurst Business Partnership member Robert Tait said the cameras would diminish privacy on a street traditionally famed for its liberal attitude, calling the cameras “an infringement on our hard-fought right to privacy”. Tait suggested increased policing and locating a police station on Oxford Street as a better strategy to combat homophobic violence in an area famed for its promotion of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. Gay news for the Queer Australian

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