CBC Digital Archives

Surveillance Cameras at trial

You are being watched. From street corners and roadsides, bank machines and satellites, video cameras record our every move. For police forces, photo radar, street surveillance, cruiser cams and tiny cameras have become efficient crime-fighting tools, gathering irrefutable proof of criminal activity and deterring would-be lawbreakers. For others, video surveillance is an uncomfortable erosion of civil liberties, the unblinking eyes of Big Brother.

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If you're an accused criminal, it's pretty hard to say, "it wasn't me" while watching a videotape of a crime in progress, starring you. That's the opinion of Intercon Security's Richard Chenoweth, who tells CBC Radio's Metro Morning that a good video system is both a crime deterrent and a crime solver. Even criminal lawyer Leo Adler says he's had clients who have had no choice but to plead guilty when confronted with compelling video evidence.

But things get fuzzy when the pictures are fuzzy. Do squinting jurors convince themselves that the black and white blob actually does look like the defendant? How does the court ensure the tapes are what they claim to be? Are they edited, and what came before and after? These are some of the doubts Adler raises in court, and in this CBC Radio conversation with Chenoweth and host Maureen Taylor. 
Some headlines from surveillance in Canada:
. 1978: Knitting company spies on its employees
. 1981: Canada Post gets closed-circuit monitors
. 1989: Security cameras hidden in store mannequins
. 1993: Burnaby hospital records nurses stealing drugs
. 1994: Cameras mounted in school buses
. 1995: SpyTech retail store opens

. 1995: Teddy bear cameras monitor nannies and babysitters
. 1996: Pervert uses shoe camera to look up skirts
. 1998: Bank employees caught videotaping customer PINs
. 2004: A third of Canadian companies surveyed say they use video surveillance; 15 per cent keep recordings to review employee performance.

. Leo Adler is a graduate of McGill University and Osgoode Hall Law School. He was called to the bar in 1975 and is now (2004) a partner with Toronto's Adler Bytensky, practicing criminal law.
. In 1999 Adler became Director of National Affairs for the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, speaking at conferences and seminars and providing media commentary on matters relating to war criminals, human rights and other issues related to the Holocaust.

. Intercon Security was founded in Toronto in 1972 to help protect shopping malls and office buildings. It is now one of the country's biggest security firms, claiming over 2,000 personnel across North America.
. Richard Chenoweth was an executive at Wells Fargo Alarms Services Ltd., Burns International Security Ltd. and Intercon Security, and is now (2004) president and CEO of Securitas Canada Limited.
Medium: Radio
Program: Metro Morning
Broadcast Date: July 6, 1994
Guest(s): Leo Adler, Richard Chenoweth
Host: Maureen Taylor
Duration: 5:52

Last updated: February 7, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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