Nova Scotia

Wolfville eyes camera pilot project on streets around Acadia

The Town of Wolfville, N.S., wants to install video cameras on residential streets around Acadia University to deal with property damage, vandalism and theft, but the students' union is raising concerns about the plan.

Town says 2-year pilot project is in response to property damage and mischief

The video cameras would be put on nine different streets in the residential area around Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. (Josh Hoffman/CBC)

The Town of Wolfville, N.S., wants to install video cameras on residential streets around Acadia University to deal with property damage, vandalism and theft, but the students' union is raising concerns about the plan.

Town council is proposing a two-year pilot project that would see 11 video cameras put throughout the neighbourhood around the university.

"We have residents who live in the community and are, I would say, fed up with the property damage, people who are urinating on their property and stolen street signs," said Mayor Wendy Donovan.

Last year, the town put up signage as part of an awareness campaign to discourage behaviour like trespassing and leaving broken glass on sidewalks.

Donovan said the signs were either damaged or stolen. She believes the cameras will be a better deterrent, and noted most students at Acadia don't cause any trouble.

Acadia University students took their homecoming celebrations off-campus in October 2021, roaming around the town's streets, raising the ire of some in the community and attention from police. (Angie Jenkins/Contributed)

"I think council is always balancing things like public privacy and public safety and right now public safety and the wellbeing of all of our residents is my priority," she said.

The cameras would not be actively monitored and they would only be viewed after a crime is reported, Donovan said.

With Wolfville council voting on whether to install CCTV cameras to curb vandalism, a group of residents held a webinar to look at research that shows CCTV surveillance is ineffective for the purposes the town intends it for. Criminologist Stephen Schneider spoke at the webinar.

Crime stats

Since Jan. 1, 2018, RCMP have received 189 reports of theft, 140 disturbance calls and 238 mischief calls in Wolfville during the months university students are in school.

Const. Jeff Wilson said it's hard to know exactly how many calls are generated by Acadia students, but they nearly double the town's population from September to April.

"It certainly adds to the type of police calls and the type of community complaints with the demographic that does come through those months," he said.

Wilson said evidence from video cameras would make it easier for RCMP to respond to complaints.

Student's union has privacy concerns

Acadia Students' Union president Georgia Saleski said privacy is a concern with the proposal. A bigger concern, she said, is that students aren't consulted when these decisions are made.

"It's no secret that the relationship between students who go to Acadia and the Town of Wolfville has to be kind of carefully managed right now," said Saleski.

She said any idea that doesn't involve the people who are most affected will not be successful. 

The university, the town and students each have a role to play in providing a safe place for students to socialize, she said.

Longtime resident Bob Lutes believes video cameras will be a deterrent for bad behaviour. (Submitted by Bob Lutes)

"I think there's this huge attitude right now of, 'How do we fix this, how do we catch them, how do we stop them?' We should alternatively flip the script in my opinion and look for, 'How can we better support students? Where can we give them a safe drinking place?'" she said.

Resident Bob Lutes has lived beside Acadia University for 42 years. He supports Saleski's idea of creating a safe and enjoyable venue for students so they don't spill out into residential streets.

He also supports the camera idea because of what he's seen first-hand. He previously knocked on the doors of known party houses in the area with university and town officials in an effort to curtail unruly off-campus parties.

"It's a piece of the puzzle," he said. "It's a piece we wish we didn't have to have, but apparently we do. There's a privacy issue, but there's also a safety, privacy issue on the other end of it."

Wolfville Mayor Wendy Donovan says the cameras would be put in areas where there have been problems in the past. (Town of Wolfville)

Something else Lutes would really like to see is what he calls a good neighbour group.

"A resident meets the student and meets the landlord and has a conversation so it's a three-way experience and you say, 'Hey, you know what, I'm here for you. You're here for me. We're working together. We can sort this out,'" he said.

Lutes said he's presented the idea to the university and town, but it's a work in progress.

Residents can provide input on the proposed pilot project at a virtual information session on Monday at 6:30 p.m. AT.



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