Corner Brook -
While there is a move on to have Big Brother monitor George Street in St. John's, there does not seem to be the same appetite for installing cameras along any of Corner Brook's downtown areas.
If anything, cameras may be more welcome along recreational areas such as the Corner Brook Stream Trail network than near bars in the Broadway area or other business districts like West Street or the Commercial Street/Brook Street area.
Still, the cost may be prohibitive.
In St. John's, the idea of closed-circuit television cameras to help prevent and fight crime on George Street was brought up by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's incoming chief of police, Bob Johnston, when his appointment was announced recently.
The RNC in Corner Brook declined to comment on the issue in the west coast city. Const. Robert Edwards, the RNC's media relations officer in Corner Brook, said the force would have to consult with both the City of Corner Brook and the local business community before commenting.
Mayor Neville Greeley, who is an RNC officer, said it is a policing matter. From the city's perspective, Greeley said the municipality might support the idea if there was a demonstrated need.
"We have discussed and are looking into the possibility of installing them on the (Capt. James) Cook site, given the vandalism and what not that has occurred up there," said the mayor. "But this stuff has been sporadic and you would almost have to have a more ongoing issue that would precipitate moving into that kind of expenditure to try to identify the culprits."
Greeley said George Street, touted as having the most bars per square foot of any street in North America, has a reputation which extends far beyond the province and is not comparable to any area of Corner Brook.
Keith Watton, chairperson of the Corner Brook Downtown Business Association, thinks the presence of cameras could be a great deterrent for anyone considering criminal activity in the city's more frequented areas. The issue was examined by the DBA membership in the past, but the costs associated with installing and maintaining cameras could not be justified.
From what he could recall, the estimated cost of installing 20 cameras on Broadway, West Street, Commercial Street and Brook Street was around $75,000.
"It still wouldn't have been perfect and it would have cost even more to do a really excellent job," said Watton.
"It's a cost versus the benefits situation. If there was a problem out there, I think we'd see more interest. We did explore it as a membership and we just didn't feel there was enough interest or rationale to justify it."
Watton said the area identified as needing a camera system the most was the stream trail network. Considering there is no power source along the trail, he said monitoring the trails with cameras would be a "monumental" task.
Corner Brook lawyer Jamie Merrigan doesn't think having cameras in public places would result in a drop in crime or more convictions in the courts.
He cited the example of London, England, which spent more than $400,000,000 to install 150,000 cameras in 2002.
In that first year, crime rates went up 40 per cent and the conviction rate for reported crimes remained essentially the same.
"Half a billion dollars would have been better spent putting police on the street," said Merrigan.
"The presence of police officers on foot patrol is a far better deterrent and they have the advantage of being able stop a crime in progress. Cameras have never chased down and captured so much as a purse snatcher."
With video technology enabling recorded footage to be sent wireless to an external hard drive and stored indefinitely, there is also a privacy issue, said Merrigan.
"The privacy problem is the maintenance, storage and control of access to such huge amounts of data," he said.
"Insurance companies, health authorities and even CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) have all had massive electronic data bases compromised through human error and occasionally misuse by employees. The thought of the existing enormous video surveillance data available to be misused is quite disturbing, especially when its creation doesn't seem to have done any good."