Council approves bylaw to approve CCTV in downtown

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

The Town of Frances voted to enter into a transfer payment agreement with the province of Ontario, for the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Grant program, designed to support the police by installing surveillance technology in order to deter criminal activity related to gun and gang violence and improve public safety.

The result of this agreement will see the installation of security cameras around downtown Fort Frances in order to increase security measures.

The town had received a one-time grant of $170,000 from the province for the year of 2021-2022 to allow the Fort Frances OPP to install surveillance technology throughout the town’s downtown core.

The total cost of the project comes to $340,000, and with the grant covering half of that, the town agreed to cover $148,000 using reserve funds. The remaining $22,000 will be covered using in-kind services.

Jeremy Hughes, IT manager for the town, said areas that they are referencing with camera installation locations were specifically identified by the OPP through empirical measures that analyze the density of calls relative to the surrounding area.

Hughes added that the turnaround dates are tight, while forecasting the installation of the cameras to take place next fall. 

“They intend for the funds to be fully expensed by around March, which means you need to start immediately,” Hughes said.

He added that during the application process local businesses were canvassed and several of them ended up producing endorsement letters which were attached to the application. 

“The areas that we are referencing with camera installation locations, were specifically identified by the OPP through empirical measures that analyzed the density of calls relative to the surrounding area,” Hughes said, “We did perform some basic analysis prior to that application process.”

Coun. Douglas Judson said the town has to make sure that in installing the surveillance equipment, they are not triggering some unique obligations under the municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. 

“We would become a custodian of the recordings that are collected by that surveillance equipment,” Judson said. I just wanted to make sure that we were getting appropriate legal advice, probably from a privacy lawyer, just to make sure how we manage that information is appropriate.”

Hughes echoed Judson’s concern, saying he would also be very interested in getting legal advice. 

Hughes said he believes that one of the guidelines established is the town having the authority to collect the information.  

“And that’s where I’d like to see the law come into play,” he added. “[This] policy would speak to whatever requirements we would have as a custodian of the information. And it could potentially outlay roles and responsibilities of the opp for which the intent is that they would have remote access to these services.”

Coun. Andrew Hallikas said he is happy to see this project move ahead because it is long overdue. 

The next step in this process, Hughes said, is to consider a bylaw authorizing the deployment of surveillance equipment in the areas identified by the OPP. 

“I’d like to come forward with something on that front, in addition to a broad video surveillance policy that affects not only the current surveillance at our existing facilities, but also this project,” Hughes said.