Vancouver city councilor calls for more CCTV camera use, Canadian Civil Liberties Association opposed

A Vancouver city councilor is calling for more CCTV camera use to help fight crime in the downtown core.

Melissa De Genova has filed a movementcalling for city staff to work with the Vancouver Police Department to determine areas where the surveillance cameras could be useful.

“I hear from people who live in our city, who work in our city, who play in our city, who don’t feel safe. I’m hearing from people who are walking home from work downtown that don’t feel safe even during daylight hours,” Genoa told CTV News.

Surveillance footage has helped lead to a number of arrests in random stranger attacks in Vancouver’s downtown core, however, that footage was obtained from CCTV cameras that were not owned by the city.

“We have private businesses that VPD canvas for footage if there is a violent assault, this just makes it that much easier for VPD,” De Genova said.

“To those people who say we shouldn’t be doing this, I’d ask why, what are they trying to avoid?” she added.

However, Brenda McPhail, the director of the privacy, technology, and surveillance program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, disagrees.

“Not all communities feel safer when they think they’re being watched by the police,” McPhail said.

McPhail points out there are also legal roadblocks.

“BC’s privacy statute actually requires police only use surveillance techniques and use leverage technologies at the point they are necessary for an investigation, that doesn’t mean nice to have, that doesn’t mean we think they’d work,” McPhail said.

“Any discussion of expanding surveillance needs to include consideration of whether or not it’s a response to a problem that there are no less invasive means to solve.”

She adds that there’s evidence showing that having cameras in place may help solve a crime after the fact, but won’t determine it.

De Genova acknowledges that it wouldn’t be some magical fix, but points out that the city used CCTV cameras during the 2010 Olympics, as well as at the annual Festival of Lights.

She says she isn’t suggesting they adopt facial recognition technologies like places like the United Kingdom has done, just the cameras.

“In a time where smart phones are being used by everyone in every public space, people are being captured on private businesses’ CCTV cameras, what is the issue?” From Genoa said.

De Genova’s motion, which will be presented to council on Tuesday, also calls for an assessment from the Privacy Commissioner.

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