North Shore Rescue says installing surveillance cameras at the trailheads of popular hiking routes could help rescue missing people.

Spokesman Tim Jones said the idea is simple: Once a search is activated, crews will be able to review the footage to get a better sense of where to look.

North Shore Rescue - SAR -  stock

North Shore Rescue says installing surveillance cameras at trailheads will give searchers a better sense of where to look when hikers go missing. (CBC)

In the case of the recent search for 22-year-old British tourist Tom Billings, North Shore Rescue scoured three mountains trying to find him before deciding to focus on the Hanes Valley area between Grouse Mountain and Lynn Headwaters.

"For the Tom Billings search, 1,600 hours was put in by our team in December. That's a huge, huge volunteer manpower outlay," Jones said.

The official search for Billings was called off on Jan. 4.

District of North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton said he agrees with the rescue group, and is supporting the proposal to add cameras in some recreation areas on the North Shore.

"Normally, you talk about public places having cameras as a result of crime, not because you are trying to track potentially-missing people," he said. "It's a novel idea."

Concerns over privacy

Hiker John Winton told CBC News it sounded like a good idea.

"I don't see how it could hurt. Anything to keep people safer," he said.

Another hiker, Jean Billingham, told CBC News there might be other factors to take into consideration.

"I think if they had cameras at the beginning of the trail, that would probably be fine but, you know, it is a privacy issue," she said.

Walton acknowledged that privacy concerns will need to be addressed, but public safety and the safety of volunteer searchers is also a priority.

"If we can do our part here to try and help them cut down the amount of time they have to spend trying to find out where the person might be, then that's a role we should seriously consider," the mayor said.

Fire, police and municipal officials met last week to discuss the trail camera idea, which would also need support from the province and from Metro Vancouver to move forward.

A formal proposal for the project could be out next week.

With files from the CBC's Emily Elias