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Electronic eyes on the streets

The Story

Things used to get a little rowdy in downtown Sherbrooke, Que. -- until Big Brother started watching. Four video monitors were installed to keep an eye on the bar district, and police say crime rates are down as a result. Despite complaints, a human rights investigation gives the system the thumbs up. As we see in this clip, local reactions range from "I don't have anything to hide," to "it's disgusting." 

Medium: Television
Program: Newswatch
Broadcast Date: June 16, 1992
Guest(s): Chantal Caron, Paul Gervais, Bertrand Rancourt, Andre Roux
Host: Dennis Trudeau
Reporter: Paul Carvalho
Duration: 4:34

Did You know?

• Many Canadian cities have installed video surveillance systems in an effort to curb vandalism, drugs, violence and dangerous driving.
• In 1994 Charlottetown, PEI investigated video cameras as a way to keep an eye on late-night rowdies.
• In 1998, St. Albert, Alta. (near Edmonton) looked at video surveillance for parks.

• In February 2001, 24-hour video surveillance was installed in a Kelowna, B.C. park in an effort by police to crack down on drunks and drug dealers. The system had local support, but on June 21, 2002 federal privacy commissioner George Radwanski took the RCMP to the B.C. Supreme Court in constitutional challenge he hoped would stop the surveillance. "Video surveillance by police in cities and towns is becoming something of a fad," Radwanski said.

• "It is a profound violation of our right to privacy, our right to go about the streets and public places of our cities and towns without being under the systematic observation of the police," Radwanski claimed. He also asked former Supreme Court justice and privacy expert Gérard La Forest for his opinion on the issue. In April 2002, La Forest wrote "continuously recorded general video surveillance violates the Privacy Act."

• On July 4, 2003, interim privacy commissioner Robert Marleau withdrew the appeal in the Kelowna case. "Although the Commissioner and his office continue to have a variety of concerns regarding video surveillance of public places by public authorities, continuing this particular action is not perceived as a useful way of spending public funds," he wrote.
• According to Radwanski, the RCMP stopped recording what the Kelowna camera sees, but the area remains under surveillance.

• The most watched nation on earth is Great Britain, where there are more than four million surveillance cameras in some 500 cities - one for every 14 people. By some estimates, a city dweller in Great Britain is now filmed by a closed circuit camera once every five minutes.


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