Much to the disgust of one White Rock politician, city staff have been asked to look into the cost, necessity and legality of installing surveillance cameras along the city’s waterfront.
“I think it’s a total waste of time,” Coun. Helen Fathers said Monday, during discussion of a motion put forward by Coun. Al Campbell.
“I cannot believe we’re even having a conversation about having security cameras on our beach. I’m very disturbed by this.”
Campbell alerted council June 11 that he wanted the concept explored, citing a need for a system that will help deter crime, gather information on what’s happening in the area and preserve safety.
Monday, he acknowledged that the suggestion – reported June 14 in Peace Arch News – “caused a little bit of emotion around town,” but didn’t back down on his feeling that “it’s the right thing to do.”
He told council he was spurred to raise the issue by the recent train protest.
(On May 5, a peaceful rally organized by a Vancouver Island activist showed opposition to the use of fossil fuels and the shipping of coal through B.C. for export. RCMP enforcement efforts that day cost the city an extra $18,000.)
In addition to deterring crime, Campbell said a surveillance system would ease the city’s stretched policing and bylaw enforcement resources, and could even help promote tourism.
Fathers was the only councillor to voice opposition to every aspect of the idea.
She said the list of guidelines for public surveillance that haven’t been met to rationalize even looking at it “goes on and on and on,” and includes completion of a privacy assessment report and proof that conventional methods of prevention and enforcement are “substantially ineffective.”
Residents also spoke out.
During question period – before the council discussion took place – Phil Le Good wanted to know what the city’s case was for considering the cameras, and asked if there would be any public consultation before they were installed, if the decision was made to proceed.
Margaret Woods, a former city councillor, questioned why the issue was even on the agenda.
“It’s an intrusion on our human rights and our rights to privacy,” she said.
Prior to the meeting, resident Ron Eves also questioned the suggestion, including why it was even put forward before any of the privacy guidelines had been met.
“This notice of motion, I think, would be something you’d advance after you’ve done the study,” he told Peace Arch News.
All other council members present voiced support for at least looking at whether it’s possible for the city to start using such a system. (Coun. Mary-Wade Anderson, who was in hospital Monday and died the next day, was the only member absent).
Coun. Larry Robinson noted he’d also like to see such cameras all along Johnston Road.
Arguments that they are an invasion of privacy fall short, Robinson said, pointing to the ever-growing use of social media and smart phones to capture, send, share and store digital images.
“This is 2012 and image privacy is basically gone,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “Your image is likely on (cameras and other media) far from the idyllic shores of White Rock.”
“I want security devices for the protection of White Rock.”
Coun. Grant Meyer also supported the idea, describing safety as “the highest priority” for the community.
In supporting the review, Coun. Louise Hutchinson noted that Fathers and Robinson both presented seemingly reasoned arguments.
“Their understanding is questionable. None of us are experts,” Hutchinson said. “It just makes it more obvious to me that it has to be referred to more saner minds than us.”
Mayor Wayne Baldwin noted the issue of legality is “paramount” in the conversation.