Fears over plans to film young people on the streets of Kalgoorlie
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Residents of Kalgoorlie fear that high-resolution cameras fitted to vehicles of private security companies, which are due to start operating in March, are being used to disproportionately target young indigenous people.
Local firm MCM Protection recently told the Kalgoorlie Miner that “the aim is to get these images to the police so they can take action.”
MCM co-owner Steve McNamara said their goal was to identify young people on the streets, with the information passed to state government agencies for welfare monitoring.
“We want to get [youth] off the streets. This will somehow hold parents to account and hopefully [the Department of Child Protection] will follow and what is happening with the family,” he told the minor.
Community member Debbie Carmody told the National Indigenous Times that “it is always First Nations people who are targeted” by any discussion of crime in the city on social media.
“Even though they don’t mention the First Nations people they are talking about, they use names like ‘the untouchables’.”
Ms Carmody said young people on the streets who are not breaking the law should not be filmed and harassed.
“During the school holidays, at night the children will be outside, the other evening we had a night minimum of 35 degrees. Friday night, Saturday night the kids will go out to meet their friends, socialize, go house to house,” she said.
“A few years ago, before Elijah was murdered, one particular person on social media said he was going out on the streets taking his dogs, to put them on the young natives.
“He even gave the names of the streets. I drove there, I was quite worried and saw three boys on one of these streets – and I warned them, two were going to a friend’s house and the other was going to meet his girlfriend in another suburb so I took him there. They were very scared,” she said.
“It’s not good that our young people can’t walk down the street without being afraid and without being harassed. We still have middle-aged white men in 4x4s chasing our youngsters.
Ms Carmody said the use of cameras to film young people walking or meeting friends in the street is “indecent” and can be defamatory.
“It raises the issue of cyberbullying. These security companies publish their stories online. On social media, people are starting to comment, to openly discuss First Nations youth and their families in derogatory ways, through stereotyping and racism,” she said.
“First Nations youth have the right to live in freedom, to move freely on their lands in a peaceful and safe manner. This surveillance targets First Nations youth even if they do not say so, we all know very well that is the case. It is a fundamental human right to move freely in public space and not to be harassed.
Ms Carmody noted that before the cameras, the indigenous people of Kalgoorlie were already over-policed by private security personnel.
“Two weeks ago, around 5 p.m., a [private security] the guard was closing the gates to the park… My sister was driving by and saw that there were three native boys walking one way nearby and two walking the other way. They stopped outside the park and were chatting.
“The security guard got out of his vehicle and told them to get out of the park, they said they weren’t in the park and he told them to continue. What authority does he have to tell them to move on?”
She mentioned an incident two years ago in which she saw an Aboriginal family told by the police to leave while having a picnic in a park, and a white family also in the park did not was not ordered to leave.
“White people sat there safe, knowing that their whiteness protected them, and this black family was moved. It happens everywhere, but this city is a special city, it’s like being in the deep south of the United States,” she said.
“We are all guilty until proven guilty.”
“No wonder we walked with our heads down. We’ve been constantly told how bad we are, for 200 years. If you keep telling people they’re bad, some will act – but for the most part, our young people don’t act bad.
Ms Carmody said that when Kalgoorlie Police said the crime rate in the area had not increased and was “no different than it always has been”, the town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, the security companies and the general population “refuse to accept it”. .
“They have it in their head that young black people are bad,” she said.
“A counselor has been talking for years about training camps to be set up in the desert so that we can send young natives there if they steal a loaf of bread. That’s how hostile it is… The mayor a few years ago [in 2016] said young natives should be caned if they fly.
She said little had changed since the early days of colonization, when “if the native people hadn’t come out of town by 6 p.m., they would tie them up.” [at the top of Hannan Street] and whip them.
Asked about the use of cameras by private security companies and racial profiling, Acting City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder CEO Alex Wiese told the National Indigenous Times that “the city has no control over the security cameras operated by private companies and cannot comment on the use of them.”
He noted that “the City does not support the act of racial profiling.”
Regarding the existing fixed CCTV cameras at Kalgoorlie Police Station, Mr Wiese said that “any requests for recorded footage should be submitted to the Town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder”.
“Recorded footage may be released under the Freedom of Information Act… WA Police have exclusive access to security camera footage from all public areas in the city. Private security companies only provide the infrastructure and the system [fixed] network of cameras.
WA Police told the National Indigenous Times that “Kalgoorlie Police are aware of the cameras referred to, which are proposed to be owned and operated by a private security company”.
“Kalgoorlie Police would not possess any recorded visions, nor would they monitor or have direct access to any of these visions.”
On security cameras in general, WA Police said security companies and members of the public who equip their vehicles with a video camera “are all bound by the same laws associated with the use of a recording device in public”.
“If the video cameras capture anything relating to local crime or other police activity, Kalgoorlie Police will welcome any viewing that supports an investigation or prosecution, just as officers regularly call in and receive CCTV, camera dashboard and cellphone vision of members of the public,” they said.
The National Indigenous Times understands that WA Police would not be interested in footage taken by private security companies unless it relates to a criminal matter, and that Kalgoorlie Police have not been approached by the security company in question.
The National Indigenous Times contacted MCM Protection for comment Monday morning.
By Giovanni Torre