Police board suggesting cameras to curb crime

In an effort to put a stop to criminal and anti-social behaviour after-hours on Scott Street, the Police Services Board wants the town to install a surveillance system in the downtown area.
In a report submitted to council Monday night, Sgt. Steve Loshaw noted the proposal for the cameras was spurred on by the 200 Block Scott Street Problem Solving Committee, which was struck in March, 2003 to address growing concerns about property damage, violence, noise disturbances, public intoxication and the use of illegal drugs on the 200 block of Scott Street.
The solution they came up with is a video recording/monitoring system to survey the street.
After reviewing a similar project in Sudbury, called the “Lion’s Eye in the Sky” project, it was determined having video surveillance would result in:
•a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour;
•savings in monetary losses (vandalism, etc.);
•enhanced public safety in relation to locating missing persons; and
•recording of police enforcement actions subject to public complaints.
The surveillance system, which would likely be located on the light standard at Portage Avenue and Scott Street, would be accompanied by:
•posting of signs indicating surveillance;
•an automatic loop which erases previous recordings; and
•limited access to the system, for security purposes.
The Police Services Board also suggested the live monitor and tape recorder be located at the OPP detachment.
The advantages of this would be:
•it allows monitoring of area by personnel (cadets, officers on modified duties, and on-duty officers completing administrative duties);
•it allows monitoring and surveillance of the area when police are unable to attend there due to other calls or duties; and
•video tape recordings of activity may be retrieved for investigative purposes.
The only downsides would be:
•required supervision to ensure monitoring does not replace police presence; and
•cost associated with Internet and Shaw Cable subscriptions.
The cost of such a project would be $15,000, but the Police Services Board suggested the town should find partners to share the cost.
Council had varying opinions of the proposal. Coun. Struchan Gilson noted he understood the purpose of the proposal, but the idea of camera watching the public reminded him of George Orwell’s 1984.
“I find it really scary. I’ve had just about enough of surveillance cameras,” he remarked.
“I don’t think it’s a Big Brother situation,” replied Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft. “It’s a specific problem. And this is a specific solution.”
He added only those who break the law should be concerned about the surveillance system.
CAO Mark McCaig agreed the idea was put forth in response to a concern for night-time safety on Scott Street, adding businesses aren’t the only victims on Scott Street. Residents live there, too.
“It’s a big problem,” he remarked.
Coun. Tannis Drysdale noted there may civil liberties issues to look at before council agrees to any surveillance cameras being installed.
Council forwarded the recommendation from the Police Services Board to the Administration and Finance Executive Committee. A recommendation will come back to council at a future meeting.