The network of Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) street surveillance cameras has provided zero evidence against illegal dumping since launch, according to a Freedom of Information request filed by Transit Jam.
The internet-linked cameras, placed at around 150 locations around the city, were launched in 2018 to try to stem the amount of illegal garbage dumping and fly-tipping. However, according to Mike Wu, for the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene, of all illegal dumping tickets given between January 2016 and November 2020, “no evidence was directly from the Internet Protocol cameras.”
FEHD says it has used the cameras to successfully prosecute 617 vehicles for “depositing waste from a vehicle”, a separate offence that covers littering from vehicles.
Yet the cameras have led to no fixed penalty notices for illegal dumping, the crime they are supposed to monitor. Yet illegal dumping in areas covered by the cameras remains a big issue, according to residents of two such areas, Shelley Street and Bowen Road. One Shelley Street resident complained the cameras were “intrusive” and the extensive signage around them “ugly”.
An FEHD official, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the cameras were just a tool to help identify garbage dumping patterns. “But I think they are useless at the moment, and wasting huge amounts of budget, because in the end we still need enforcement personnel to issue fines on the spot.”
As explained by the official, Fixed Penalty Notices for illegal dumping can only be issued by FEHD officers at the time and location of the illegal dumping.
The official said the use of cameras at truck-dumping blackspots had potential, since fines could be delivered through video evidence, but the system had become useless as fly-tippers got wise to the cameras. “Trucks will use something to cover up the licence plate and make the camera useless,” he said.
The official’s comments may explain why each camera has yielded only around 1.5 vehicle convictions per year.
A spokesman said that the FEHD is implementing the arrangements in accordance with the Guidance on CCTV Surveillance and Use of Drones issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.
However, that Guidance says CCTV must be justified and users must consider if there are less privacy-intrusive alternatives.
FEHD and the Office of the Government’s Chief Information Officer did not respond to further questions.