British Columbia

Vancouver says no to CCTV on downtown Granville strip

The decision is part of a set of proposed changes coming to city's popular Granville Entertainment District, including patios for bars.

Staff report questioned effectiveness of cameras, said city would be unable to meet privacy requirements

Many have expressed concerns about the safety of Vancouver's popular Granville Entertainment District, with its concentration of bars and nightclubs. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

The City of Vancouver will not be installing surveillance cameras along the popular Granville Entertainment District.

The motion was discussed along with other proposed changes to the area as part the city's liquor policy update at Wednesday's council meeting.

Proponents of CCTV, like Vancouver city councillor George Affleck, said the tool would help with policing along the busy corridor.

"It would be prudent for us to pursue this and get some cameras on there, not only so people can feel protected, but to make it easier for police to prosecute any situation on Granville Street," Affleck said.

He pointed to the recent death of nightclub bouncer Kalwinder Thind, who was killed attempting to break up a fight on the strip in January.

"One of the challenges we had in the recent death was there's very little footage and very little information we can find about who the killer was," Affleck said.

"[CCTV] is something we as a government should look at."

Changes to the Granville Strip were proposed as part the city's liquor policy update at Wednesday's council meeting. (David Horemans/CBC)

Concerns about effectiveness

But opponents of surveillance cameras questioned their effectiveness.

Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said while CCTV can help reduce crime in certain contexts and spaces, it has proved less effective in public street corners.

"They do nothing to deter drunk people from doing anti-social things," Vonn said.

Furthermore, she pointed out that research from London, England, which has extensive CCTV in public street spaces, often didn't produce clear video for prosecution.

"They actually produce very little in terms of a clearance rate for crime," she said.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association's Michael Vonn says research from the U.K., where CCTV is extensively used, raises concerns about the effectiveness of surveillance cameras. (CBC)

Privacy is another concern, Vonn said. 

In this case, she said, the onus is on the city to show it has tried non-surveillance kinds of solutions and it has reason to believe it can solve the problem with surveillance.

Ultimately, a city staff report advised against CCTV.

It concluded the city would not be able to meet privacy requirements and questioned the effectiveness of surveillance cameras in preventing property and violent crime.

It also raised concerns about costs.

Patios approved for bars and nightclubs

As part of the motion, council gave the green light to allow patios at bars and nightclubs along the street. Previously, patios were only allowed at restaurants along the strip.

Charles Gauthier with the Downtown Business Improvement Association says a larger patio culture in the area will put more eyes on the street and keep the the street safer.

"This could be a positive thing to help calm the street and help change the dynamic and the public perception about the street," Gauthier said.

Patio-goers could see new patios on the Granville Strip by this summer. (Glen Kugelstadt/CBC)

Following council's approval, the Downtown Business Improvement Association says a couple of patios could be ready by summer.

With files from B.C. Almanac and Zahra Premji


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