It appears city council is on a path to installing video surveillance cameras in George Little Park and Brolly Square. With that, there are the usual issues of privacy that arise.
A report from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner states routine video surveillance should only occur when its benefit to the community outweighs individual rights to privacy. A short list of justifiable uses include law enforcement and public safety, both certainly legitimate considerations for the two areas proposed for surveillance in Terrace.
Last year the RCMP received 158 calls to George Little Park and 83 calls to Brolly Square. The majority of calls were related to public disturbance and intoxication, followed by assaults of varying degrees.
It can also be argued that detention of intoxicated persons prevented further crimes, as the potential for violent behaviour increases with alcohol.
Terrace RCMP, not surprisingly, are supportive of the idea, saying cameras may help deter vandalism and help protect vulnerable residents, like the homeless, who are often the victims of violence, robberies and assaults, but are reluctant to speak up.
The OIPC cautions public administrators to exhaust all options before resorting to video surveillance, to which police interests can again be argued for meeting that criteria.
Yes, lighting can be improved, but the public response to the surveillance question is nonetheless supportive, exactly the opposite of what one would expect from citizens in today’s digital world, mired further and further in cynicism and distrust of authority and government.
Even on social media public response to the Standard’s stories on this subject have been overwhelmingly supportive of city council. A few posts have offered the identical comment of “slippery slope,” but they fail to elaborate much or attach the Big Brother argument to this specific issue in Terrace.
The option for surveillance of George Little Park and Brolly Square has momentum and it’s unlikely anything will interrupt it—aside from $10,000 price tag for each camera.
Will video surveillance deter the type of crime we’re seeing? It’s unlikely, but it may affect the location of where this crime occurs. And that’s really what’s at the heart of this discussion. The city and businesses have a right to see order in its downtown core, and families have the right to enjoy their community park, safely.
No one proclaims public surveillance is a cure-all to the issues of crime, but as a tool it’s a reasonable option on the road to reclaiming public spaces for all the community, not just a few.