In the wake of this week’s vandal attack on Wollongong’s CBD, readers of the Illawarra Mercury have been asking a question that has been bugging us as well: Where is the CCTV footage that will allow the offender to be identified and caught?
The Wollongong CBD is covered by an extensive network of cameras, which were installed to help in the prevention and investigation of crime, as well as improve asset protection.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Mercury made an informal, verbal request for the footage. We planned to post the video on our website and publish still photographs in the paper, in the hope that someone would identify the offender.
That request was denied, with the council citing concerns about privacy issues.
Yet in our book, people who wantonly destroy or deface public property do not deserve any consideration of privacy. Judging by the posts on the Mercury website, our readers agree.
The Mercury has now lodged a formal application for the footage, under freedom of information laws.
However, even a simple application may take 20 working days. A more complicated application (for example, one that requires the council to consult other parties) may take seven weeks.
Even then, there is no guarantee the footage will be released.
Of course, police have access to the video. We hope it enables them to identify and catch the offender.
We must also hope that, while the council is deliberating the delicate issue of a criminal’s privacy, the offender does not wreak more costly and ugly damage on public or private property.