Facial recognition for its CCTV network is off the agenda of the ACT government but its newest cameras include similar advanced features which allow police to search and "follow" suspects on camera more efficiently and without legal impediment.
Human rights and privacy legislation in the ACT prevents the use of facial recognition software such as that used in Melbourne and Perth, but the Avigilon cameras' latest search technology allows a search using clothing colour, gender and age categories.
The cameras use such advanced technology as an "appearance search" and "video pattern technology" which perform a similar role to facial recognition but avoid breaching privacy laws.
The self-learning and networked nature of the new high definition cameras, combined with a search engine capability, allows operators to identify a person of interest - or a vehicle of interest given the system also includes number plate recognition - and then build a "storyboard" which tracks the route taken by that person.
In last year's ACT Budget, $475,000 was allocated to a public safety CCTV upgrade throughout the territory. Four new solar powered cameras have been commissioned at Henry Rolland Park, in Acton, to help protect public infrastructure from vandalism, for oversight of major events including public rallies, and also for police seeking people of interest.
Police minister Mick Gentleman said the cameras ensure safe public areas around Canberra and "also bring a deterrent for those who want to commit a crime".
"Police have used footage from these [four] cameras more than 270 times and have seen 79 reports directly to the CAD [police Computer Aided Despatch system]," he said.
It was the first stage of a three year plan which will see the progressive replacement of the older-style cameras with two new types, including the manually operable PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) variety and the four-lens type with 360-degree monitoring.
The zoom and definition on the cameras, said Bren Burkevics from the government's Security Emergency Management Branch, provides a far greater capability than previously existed in the ACT.
The cameras and the network is owned by the ACT government but monitored primarily at the Operations Centre at the Winchester Police Centre in Belconnen. The cameras can also be viewed from the Justice and Community Safety head office office in Moore St, Civic during special events such as the Multicultural Festival.
Police only physically monitor the network for incidents during Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening shifts and the hard-drives hold 30 days of vision. Video files necessary for evidence need to back-captured within that time-frame or the vision of the incident would be lost.
There are around 80 "public safety" CCTV cameras across the ACT but this does not include those operated by ACT Health, traffic operations, ACT Shared Services, and other stand-alone systems, such as that within the Canberra jail and around its secure perimeter.
Police can also request private vision to assist an investigation and do so continually in their media releases.
The key fixed camera locations for police as a result of potential criminal incidents are those in and around the Civic entertainment precinct, including along London Circuit. Many of these are older style technology and will be progressively replaced with the newer, high-definition PTZ types in the next 18 months to two years.
As the new cameras come on line, the ability for them to back-capture an incident, identify a suspect and the search engine used follow him/her through the city once they have left the crime scene becomes invaluable.
Around $500,000 was separately allocated to installing CCTV in bus stations and on light rail corridors. A further $200,000 was allocated to a security risk review which included anti-vehicle barriers to prevent vehicular terrorist attacks and an improved security camera system for Bruce Stadium.
ACT chief police officer Ray Johnson said police "get great value out of this CCTV network".
He said that last year there were 119 patrols dispatched "as a result of monitoring cameras in real time".
"We had on one particular occasion a sexual assault in progress; [it was] disrupted and offenders arrested which is a really positive outcome for the community," he said.
He said that the network was also invaluable for intelligence and evidence gathering.