Spy camera trial for Chapel Street

Twenty-four-hour security cameras are coming to Chapel Street and the surrounding entertainment strips to try to stop crime in its tracks.

The State Government will fund a six-month trial of five cameras in the popular entertainment precinct, beginning next month.

The move follows five deaths over 2 years linked to the Salt nightclub in Claremont Street, which was permanently shut down in May. While crime has fallen and the police presence has increased in the vibrant area, locals said Chapel Street and its surrounds were still dogged by a perception of crime.

The five cameras will be placed outside two popular nightspots in Chapel Street; in the Cato Street car park; near the South Yarra train station; and on the corner of Commercial Road and Grattan Street.

The remotely controlled cameras, which will have night vision, will be installed in a joint initiative between local police, the City of Stonnington and camera companies.

Crime statistics for 2003-04 show that crime fell 13.3 per cent in Stonnington. But Stonnington Mayor Melina Sehr said that since the Salt nightclub murders, there was still a perception of crime in and around Chapel Street.

"As a council, we were very vocal about the need to improve the perception of safety in the area, especially on Friday and Saturday nights," she said.

Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said the police force "could not be everywhere at once so the cameras will . . . enable police to better identify those areas where they need to be".

"We want people to go there but not to make a nuisance of themselves or make it unpleasant for others or local residents," he said.

In April, the Melbourne City Council voted to keep its 23 security cameras operating after an initial decision to suspend them.

A consultants' report had earlier found that while the cameras substantially helped in crime detection, there was not enough evidence to show they prevented crime.

Mr Haermeyer said the Chapel Street cameras would not prevent all crimes, but they would be a powerful deterrent if properly monitored.

Jim Pothitos, chairman of Streets Ahead, the Chapel Street traders' association, said traders greatly supported the security cameras but hoped they would be monitored.

It is believed signs will notify the public of the new surveillance cameras. The cameras will be governed by privacy protocols.

The cameras will be the latest tool helping police target a range of offences, including drug dealing, assaults and car thefts. Police already use drug sniffer dogs in nightclubs, have greater search powers and use hand-held metal detectors.

The Inner City Entertainment Precinct Taskforce, set up after the Salt nightclub closure, is due to report to the Government by the end of the year about security, safety and public amenity around bars and nightclubs in the Melbourne, Yarra, Port Phillip and Stonnington Council areas.

Taskforce chairman and Prahran MP Tony Lupton said more proactive policing and co-operation between community groups had helped improve

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