City Councillor Pushing for Surveillance Cameras
Prince George, B.C. – A Prince George City Councillor would like to see this city follow the steps of an Okanagan community and install surveillance cameras downtown.
Brian Skakun says the City of Vernon just committed $11,000 for surveillance measures there and in light of the high number of RCMP calls for service at 3rd and George Street downtown, wonders why Prince George doesn’t do the same.
A recent report to council by Prince George RCMP Superintendent Warren Brown revealed that between 2011 and 2015, there has been a 22% increase in calls for police to attend the 3rd and George area.
In the first three months of this year, calls are already up 7% over the same period a year ago and over the last four years on average there have been 132 calls to that area a month.
“So obviously they’ve realized the benefit of having these cameras and you know we go to the malls today, go to the banks, you walk past businesses just about everybody has video surveillance and it’s not like it would be anything new,” he says.
“I mean people have to have privacy rights and going forward with this issue there would have to be a plan in place with what you’d do with the collected information and how you would possibly disclose it to the RCMP if needed and you’d need to talk to the privacy commissioner and figure out what would be the best way to balance a person’s privacy with fighting crime.”
But he’s still in favour of them.
“It’s been an issue for some time but when the RCMP came to council and said we’ve had 1,700 calls in a couple of years for 3rd and George, I’m thinking my God, if we can’t get the boots on the ground down there let’s at least get some video surveillance equipment.”
Plus, Skakun says the civic facilities already have surveillance so why not?
“There’s no easy solution but I think there’s an opportunity to at least try it and see if it helps as a deterrent to start with. It’s a deterrent when you have signage saying the area is under surveillance.”
What’s more, he says business owners in the area have been telling him they’re fed up with what’s going on and its time council try something new.
“I think when you get a real hot spot like 3rd and George, if you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting and we’re not getting any results in reducing crime.”
Superintendent Brown says he’s not opposed to cameras but notes they are very controversial.
“I don’t want to become part of the controversy but I will say if there are any innovative or exceptional manners in which we as a community can support to ensure public safety I’m behind that,” he says.
“In this particular location, because of the high volume of crime being reported because of the businesses and community outcry towards the police to bring some level of safety because of the number of overdoses we’ve seen – we’ve seen some deaths in and around the area – I would say that criteria for a camera or public cameras exist. Not to compromise the comings and goings of people who have legitimate purpose there. If it deters crime, if it can capture something criminally, I’m supportive of it.”
He notes though the installation of any cameras would not be police driven.
“The police do not want to take responsibility for these. If there are businesses, a community approach to it I would support that. Certainly there’s privacy legislation around the RCMP usage of video – there’s search warrants, there’s judicial authorization requirements but if they are in the general public for the use of deterring crime, I support that.”
But Micheal Vonn, policy director with the BC Civil Liberties Association, doubts the cameras would work.
“We know from social science data that just putting cameras in public spaces does very, very little,” she says. “There are a few places where CCTV has proved to be quite effective – underground parking garages are one of them. But simply on random street corners is not one of them.”
Vonn also shoots down the notion a sign warning the public a camera is present would deter crime from occurring.
“You want to be very specific about what it is you are trying to capture. If we’re looking at something like this is the kind of area many people get intoxicated, I can guarantee you a sign saying please don’t do this you’re on camera, is not going to do much.”