New Burnet Institute research has cast doubt over the effectiveness of CCTV as a deterrent for the street-based trading and use of ‘ice’ and heroin.
Businesses in Melbourne’s popular restaurant precinct in Victoria Street, North Richmond, which is also a focal point for the sale and use of illicit opiates, are calling for CCTV to be installed in the area.
The Victorian Government has offered to fund CCTV cameras to address what local MP Richard Wynne describes as ‘serious social issues’ on Victoria Street.
But research from Burnet econometrician Dr Nick Scott found that CCTV had no impact on the heroin market in a similar commercial zone in Footscray, in Melbourne’s inner west.
Dr Scott’s research, conducted over a five-year period on a cohort of more than 680 people who inject drugs (PWID), found that CCTV cameras shifted the PWID from using heroin in public toilet settings targeted by the cameras to using it on the street.
“We were trying to see whether the CCTV cameras have any impact on the drug market, in particular the heroin market in Footscray,” Dr Scott said of his research, published in the Journal of Experimental Criminology.
“What we found was that both before and after CCTV, the frequency of use remained unchanged, so the cameras appeared to have had no impact on frequency.
“We also knew from our studies the types of settings that people purchased and used their drugs in, whether it was in a house, on a street, in a public toilet, in a car, or in a park.”
Dr Scott said these settings remained unchanged following the introduction of CCTV, though the study showed the cameras caused some displacement of people who use drugs from their preferred locations.
“People who previously used drugs in public toilets now appear to be using them on the street, and this may have been directly related to cameras positioned near the public toilets,” he said.
Dr Scott said the lessons and trends from Footscray would also apply to Richmond, but that longer-term solutions would require evidence-based policies that have been effective in other communities.
“The evidence clearly shows that multiple approaches are needed,“ he said.
“That would include supervised injecting facilities which have worked in various places, preferably a fixed facility because it offers more stability and resources, but a mobile facility would at least be a step in the right direction.”