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CCTV cameras could soon run off Canberra's free Wi-Fi network

CCTV cameras could soon be installed wherever there is a CBR Free Wi-Fi hotspot in a trial being considered by the ACT government.

Currently, the Justice and Community Safety Directorate's Public Safety CCTV System - a network of 72 cameras that monitors entertainment districts like Civic, Manuka and Kingston - uses the ACT government's ICT network to feed footage back to the central system.

However several areas where the directorate is considering installing cameras don't have this ICT network nearby.

Instead of expanding the ICT network to these areas, the government will explore whether the free Wi-Fi network could route CCTV vision securely.

The trial is being considered by government as part of the 2017-18 Budget process and, if it is successful, it could give the government the option of deploying CCTV quickly in crime hotspots or at community events, police minister Mick Gentleman said.

Cyber security expert and director of the Centre for Internet Safety at the University of Canberra Nigel Phair said it was a good idea, so long as there was adequate security.

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"The most important things are the end points, being the cameras, are fully protected with security software and more importantly the traffic that goes over the Wi-Fi network is fully encrypted to make sure no one eavesdrops on the data that's being transmitted," Mr Phair said.

He said the only barrier to putting these measures in place would be the cost and the time involved.

"I would like to think from a public policy perspective they'll think this through and realise why it's important to protect any CCTV traffic through this," Mr Phair said.

"Everyone has the right to walk around the place without the fear of people eavesdropping on what they're doing at a particular time in a public place."

Last budget, the government allocated $376,000 to upgrade its CCTV systems.

One camera in Green Square, Kingston and two cameras in Franklin Street, Manuka were replaced with multi-lens, high definition cameras which provide up to 360-degree coverage.

Three cameras in Civic were upgraded to multi-lens high-definition cameras and seven others were replaced with high-definition pan-tilt-zoom cameras.

The new cameras cost between $4,000 and $6,000 each.

Access to the CCTV system is restricted to specially-programmed PCs and staff of the ACT Government and ACT Policing that possess the log-on credentials. 

Footage is captured 24/7 and destroyed after 30 days, unless it's required for investigative purposes.

Staff at the Winchester Police Centre in Belconnen monitor the Public Safety CCTV system on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to identify trouble early and dispatch officers faster.

At the recent Multicultural Festival, authorities used an enabled laptop for the first time to live monitor the CCTV footage and make decisions on the fly.

The Justice and Community Safety Directorate is not the only agency monitoring Canberrans through CCTV.

The Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate manages a CCTV network of more than 2400 cameras which monitor libraries, cemeteries and bus stops.