Million bucks for cameras to keep eye on crooks

Pilot project will train videocams on B.C. city streets
By Suzanne Fournier, Vancouver Province

B.C. Solicitor-General John van Dongen and Attorney-General Wally Oppal teamed up with two Metro Vancouver mayors Monday to announce a $1 million pilot project to use closed circuit television cameras to combat crime.
Van Dongen noted that although the provincial government is committed to add 950 police officers across the province, police can’t always be in the “right place at the right time to witness” and halt crime.
“Technologies such as CCTV can greatly assist the police and the prosecution in bringing offenders to jutice,” said van Dongen. “We believe CCTV can be an important tool in catching criminals and improving public safety.”

The $1 million in funding won’t buy cameras or install them. Instead it will pay for a pilot project to examine and test the use of videocams in three cities; Vancouver, Surrey and Kelowna, said van Dongen.
The B.C. government will work with city governments, police and local Crown counsel to identify high crime areas suited to camera use, the best technologies and how to coordinate the videocams with other public safety measures.
Van Dongen cited the Bait Car videocam program as an example of successful use of cameras to catch criminals in the act.
Oppal acknowledged that the “placement of surveillance cameras is somewhat controversial, and I’m sure people will be concerned about some of the issues concerning privacy rights but on balance (videocams) are a good move.”
Oppal cited the successful use of surveillance cameras in arresting someone accused of keying cars in a Coquitlam parking lot, as well as the arrest of a prison guard who assisted in the escape from jail of a known gangster.
“People feel unsafe leaving their vehicles in parking lots and public safety is a major issue,” said Oppal.
“There can be no better evidence in the courtroom than someone who is on camera committing a crime,” said Oppal, a former B.C. Supreme Court justice.
Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan promised the cameras “will only be placed in neighbourhoods that want (them).”
“Two thumbs’ up and great kudos,” he declared, adding his support to the B.C. government street camera plan.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts said Surrey is “very supportive” of the videocam pilot. “Surrey has been working on the possibility of using cameras as part of our overall crime reduction strategy,” she said.
Kelowna has already implemented CCTV in some high-crime areas, said Kelowna Mayor Sharon Shepherd, “and we like what we’ve seen so far, to the point where we want to expland the use of cameras to protect law-abiding citizens.”