Lisa Gervais: Surveillance must be debated
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 3, 2019|
The issue of town surveillance has resurfaced again in Dysart et al - in light of an ongoing murder investigation and graffiti at the Junction Park skate park.
The first incident occurred along Highland Street across from the Head Lake Park trail. The second was adjacent to the A.J. LaRue Arena.
At the last Dysart et al council meeting, Mayor Andrea Roberts commented on the use of security cameras in the village. She said the alleged murder on June 18 led to talks on the subject. She said the township didn’t have any CCTV footage police could use. She went on to say it sparked a conversation that security cameras are legal and allowed.
She noted it’s not like the township is putting the footage on the internet. It would be for township use only for security.
Apparently, there are two cameras in Head Lake Park which are not being used but the municipality is planning to turn them back on.
It was around about this time last year that there was talk about surveillance. Remember the break-in at Haliburton’s Lily Ann Thrift Store? No one was hurt and only a small amount of second-hand jewelry taken but vandals urinated and bled on clothes, and volunteers had to throw donated items out. They also smashed a window and left items on the ground.
At the end of last May, there was a significant break-in at The Source on Haliburton’s main street. More than $10,000 in goods and cash were taken.
Source owner Don van Nood made a call for cameras, saying it could be a Dysart et al and Haliburton BIA initiative.
Some stores have cameras, but they don’t provide a sweeping view that police would like to have access to.
The BIA has indicated that it might be too rich for their blood, so the decision will likely rest with Dysart et al council. Incidentally, the BIA was also worried about technical requirements and footage being subpoenaed.
That ‘big brother is watching you’ mentality is shared by others in Haliburton County.
After all, as The Globe and Mail reported last year, “when urban thinker Jane Jacobs talked about eyes on the street, she meant live, human eyes belonging to people walking around or sitting on their front steps.”
She was referring to streets with lots of people milling about, such as New York’s Greenwich Village or Toronto’s Annex.
But, as we all know, there isn’t a lot of foot traffic in Haliburton, Minden or Wilberforce in the evenings or overnight. People aren’t sitting on their porches late at night, either. We would argue that some security cameras are necessary. However, Dysart should do its homework to figure out what rules should govern their use.
For example, in Toronto, the city’s own security cameras and those used by police include signs that tell passersby they are being filmed and why, and provide contact information for those with more questions.
Private businesses, too, are supposed to identify their own security cameras in a similar way, according to guidelines published by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
Also, under those federal rules, customers can ask a business for a copy of whatever personal information has been collected about them, including CCTV footage.
Police like them. They made an arrest in the alleged murder here but footage could make their job easier. And, what if there’d been no arrest and a suspect was on the loose? They could have put out an image and caught said suspect.
However, research also shows the law enforcement and deterrent benefits of the cameras are overstated. And there are potential downsides, like privacy concerns.
Before making a final decision, Dysart et al needs to at least debate the technology and how it should be used.
Lisa Gervais is the editor for The Highlander.