Kelowna’s downtown lakeshore, could soon be blanketed with public surveillance cameras.
Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the province, the city has installed three security cameras in Stuart Park and plans to install as many as 12 more before the end of the year at locations along with waterfront, particularly at spots where special events are held.
The plan calls for cameras from Waterfront Park to the new concession stand in City Park.
City risk manager Lance Kayfish said the Stuart Park cameras, currently being tested and expected to go into service in a few weeks, are being installed to not only watch over the park but also help the city co-ordinate its security efforts in the area.
While video collected during the test period will only been seen by a handful of people including the technicians doing the testing, it will be destroyed at the end of the test. Video collected in future will also be seen by a few select people at City Hall and will be held for a short period, likely 30 days, said Kayfish. During that time, if requested by police, it could be turned over but Kayfish said it would have to be an extraordinary circumstance, such as an investigation into a violent crime.
He said while the cameras will keep an eye on the park, the city is cognizant of privacy concerns and will have policies in place about who sees the video and how long it is kept for. The city already requires that signs be posted advising the public that they are on camera in the area surrounding the cameras’ locations..
“We want to assure the public that we are very sensitive to the the issue of privacy,” said Kayfish.
The cameras were installed in Stuart Park last week and come after reports of problems in the park, particularly at the public washrooms.
In addition to the security cameras, Kayfish said city hall has had requests from the public for a webcam trained on the park, particularly during the winter when the public ice rink is in place.
He said that is being considered but would require lower resolution so as to show the scene without directly identifying the people in the park.
Kayfish said with the predominance of public surveillance cameras in the world today, he expects there will be little opposition to the the new cameras in Stuart Park. The city already operates similar cameras at the Queensway bus loop and the the Chapman parkade and there have been no complaints about them.
In many large North American and European cities, public surveillance cameras trained on streets, in tunnels, on bridges and public squares, as well as privately-operated cameras at businesses are common.
In the early 2000’s, the city gained national headlines when the RCMP installed a surveillance camera at the foot of Leon Avenue to watch the nightly bar flush from nearby nightclubs after problems arose dealing with the large crowd of people and a complaint was lodged with the federal privacy commissioner.
The commissioner at the time, George Radwanski, sent a letter to the police saying the camera was an invasion of privacy. But after some policies changes by the city was allowed to remain.