Montreal favours increased police presence over surveillance cameras

In the last two years, the City of Montreal hasn't installed any new surveillance cameras, Radio-Canada has learned.

Since 2014, 5 new cameras have been bought but none have been installed

Police stand watch at Beaudry metro. Simon Durocher, commander of the neighbourhood station, says they favour increased police presence over using surveillance cameras. (Hugo Therrien/Radio-Canada)

Despite a push two years ago to install more public security cameras, the City of Montreal still hasn't installed any in public spaces, Radio-Canada has learned.

Montreal police bought five new cameras in the last two years but none have been installed, documents obtained through an access-to-information request show.

The new numbers come after two gay men said they were attacked last month for being affectionate in public while walking to a bar in the Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said February 2014 the city needed more surveillance cameras after a series of homophobic assaults at Beaudry metro.

"We need to have more video surveillance," Coderre said at the time, but added that he wanted to consult with the public before going ahead.

In 2014, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the city needed more surveillance cameras, but since then not one has been installed. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Citizens were asked for their opinions on social media and the city created a committee of elected officials to study the issue, but the results of those measures haven't been made public.

Problem neighbourhood

There are no surveillance cameras near Beaudry metro in the gay village, an area known to police as a hotspot for loitering, drugs and violence.

Many members of the LGBT community say they've been assaulted, either verbally or physically, near that metro station.

If someone is attacked and there's a camera pointing toward the station, the person will be more likely to file a complaint.- Louis-Alain  Robitaille ,  Collectif   Carré  Rose

Louis-Alain Robitaille, spokesperson for community group Collectif Carré Rose, said he'd like to see at least one camera go up in that area.

"If someone is attacked and there's a camera pointing toward the station, the person will be more likely to file a complaint," he said.

While he acknowledged one camera won't solve all problems, he said it could at least provide video proof for future victims.

Robitaille said the focus should be putting up a camera in the village ahead of other districts, such as Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where the most recent attack happened.

Privacy concerns

The City of Montreal only has about 20 video surveillance cameras. (Thomas Gerbet/Radio-Canada)

Unlike American and European cities, some of which have thousands of surveillance cameras, Montreal only has about 20.

City spokesperson Catherine Maurice said Montreal has opted to increase the visibility of officers on the streets rather than use security cameras, which could prompt privacy concerns.

Criminal activity is going down in the area near Beaudry metro, says Cmdr. Simon Durocher of Station 22, the local precinct.

There are no cameras on the station's territory, which covers the gay village and neighbourhoods east of it.

He added the feeling of being watched sometimes leads to criminals committing crimes in different areas, rather than preventing the crime from happening.

However, some cities claim the cameras do act as a deterrent.