Final year journalism undergrad. Former City Hub co-editor. Traded three years for a film degree. Fresh from a year in Europe: half study, half shenanigans.
New tools are helping people in NSW avoid police on roads and with drug sniffer dogs.
Waze – a navigation app, which allows drivers to alert others of police activity and various road sightings – has grown to 120,000 active monthly users in Sydney, with 85 million worldwide.
NSW Shadow Minister for Justice and Police, Guy Zangari’s office told Central News that he discouraged any view that there are ways to go about crimes undetected.
But President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks said that under the law there was nothing stopping a person reporting what they see.
“It would be wrong to try and restrict people’s right to communicate about things which are publicly observable,” he said.
Overall, he doesn’t see an app having the ability to undermine random breath testing, for example.
While the uptake of the Google-owned Waze app is still small in NSW, people are instead turning to Facebook communities to report police sightings.
Currently, the Sniff Off Facebook page allows its 34,000 users to share drug-detection dog locations across NSW.
“You have every right to avoid getting off the train at a station where you know there’s going to be a bunch of drug dogs and a swarm of police, who are likely to falsely assert that you have drugs on you and humiliate you in public while they search you,” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said.
The Sniff Off page is part of a larger NSW Greens campaign protesting the prevalence of drug dogs and their alleged targeting of minority groups.
They also argue the accuracy of the dogs and want them banned.
“People should be able to avoid drug dogs, because they are a gross affront to people’s civil liberties,” he said.
Symon, a contributor to the Sniff Off page, said that the drug-detection dog operations are “degrading” the public’s trust and respect for police.
“The entire program is damaging to the relationship between the police and public,” he told Central News.
“It is so important for the public and police to have a positive relationship based around 'protect and serve', rather than 'monitor and enforce'.”
The communities are for protection, rather than getting away with crime, according to a spokesperson for the Western Sydney Transit Cop Watch Facebook page.
“People who follow our page include those with severe anxiety and want to avoid police, people with disabilities who are often targeted by transit officers, uni and TAFE students, young people, Aboriginal people, and a few homeless people,” they said.
Mr Shoebridge also said that he believed that drug dog operations were done “to be seen to be doing something” as opposed to curbing the supply of illicit drugs.
Host of security and technology podcast, Risky Business, Patrick Gray said that alerts in Waze reminded him of when speed trap locations were part of the radio traffic report.
“The way that they got that information is that the police would actually give it to them,” he said.
“They like their enforcement activities to be visible because it’s that psychological effect that reminds people that speeding is illegal and something that cops actually look at.”
A NSW Police spokesperson said that high visibility law enforcement was used to drive down the death toll on roads.
Disciplinary action has, however, been taken against individual officers after they were reported for posting false information on the Sniff Off page, according to Mr Shoebridge.
“Serving police, including police associated with the drug-dog unit, have come in and falsely stated that drug-dogs have left a location, as well as making other false statements on the page,” he alleged.
Waze spokesperson, Julie Mossler said that the company has developed partnerships with police departments worldwide as part of a two-way data exchange.
“When working with the New York Police Department, they determined that user reports of police locations actually served to reduce accidents and average speed on road segments,” she told Central News.
Mr Gray said that technology in police reporting going forward depended on what people wanted.
“You’ve just got to break it down to what types of activities that people would want to know about, and that’s going to be things like booze-buses, radar-traps, and sniffer dogs.”
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