Vandalism to Art Chairs triggers council to debate surveillance cameras

Joanne Layh

The recent vandalism of a trio of Art Chairs donated to the community by organizers of the Lake Country ArtWalk prompted council to request a report from staff this week on the procedure for installing surveillance.

Peachland’s vandalism rates overall are fairly low: the four-year average vandalism cost to the district is $341.50 a year for parks, and $323.25 for facilities for a total of $664.75 per year.

In his report to council, chief administrative officer Joe Mitchell said any installation would need to be in compliance with the policy that was put in place back when a video surveillance was set up in the fitness room of the rec centre.

As well, actions by the municipality must be in compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPPA) and any cameras that are installed in a public area must also be approved by council, Mitchell said.

According to Mitchell, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada states, “Video surveillance should only be deployed to address a real, pressing and substantial problem and that video surveillance should be viewed as an exceptional step only to be taken in the absence of a less privacy-invasive alternative.” 

An initial quote estimated the following costs:

  • Initial network hardware costs -$2,000;
  • Cost per camera – $2,000; and
  • Installation – $2,000-5,000.

“There are a few challenges involved with installation of surveillance in Heritage Park. The first challenge is the lack of lighting in the park for clear camera focus. The surveillance equipment does work in the dark, but does not always provide a clear focus in low light,” Mitchell stated in his report. “This is also coupled with the likeliness that those performing the vandalism are often dressed with face coverings or hoodies making facial recognition difficult.”

Councillor Patrick Van Minsel suggested that the municipality should concentrate its efforts on Highway 97 entrances to Beach Avenue at the Blind Angler and 13th Street.

“If you have cameras there and something happens at 2 a.m., we can easily see who came into our town between 1:30 and two,” Van Minsel said. “We should not only look at Heritage Park, we should also look at other spots in town. Otherwise it’s not efficient enough. If we do this it needs to be efficient.”

Councillor Keith Fielding said he would like to see surveillance included in upcoming budget discussions, along with information about volunteer costs, such as renovating the mural, as well as theft of private property.

“Any surveillance in a public space needs to be justifiable and a last resort,” Councillor Mike Kent said, adding that money would be better spent on prevention measures.

“Whether or not there is a cost benefit, there is a security satisfaction benefit to come from this,” Councillor Terry Condon said. “We have to consider this and find a mechanism that allows us to give our residents a bit more sense of security in the downtown area.”

“I think we need 100 per cent to install cameras,” Councillor Pam Cunningham said. “What can we do if the police are not there as often as we’d like? We can’t police it ourselves. There has to be something to try to protect our assets.”

Mayor Cindy Fortin says she also is all for it. 

“I just want to assure the public that we’re not watching them. That’s not the purpose of this. It’s actually to protect them and to protect property,” Mayor Fortin said.

“I want to be clear here that we’re talking the cost for one camera alone is more than triple the four-year average for vandalism to all our facilities,” Coun. Kent said. “We’re looking at a nuclear option as far as privacy goes to address a very minimal cost, so I do not see any justification whatsoever for pursuing this course of action.”

Councillor Keith Fielding argued that attitudes to privacy have really changed over the past few years and in the balance of individual privacy and the overall benefit to the community that it weighs in favour of the community rather than individual privacy rights.

Council voted in favour of a resolution to bring surveillance to upcoming budget discussions. Only Coun. Kent voted against the resolution.

 

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