Ottawa

Politicians, businesses backing CCTV cameras for ByWard Market

In the wake of a series of deadly shootings in the ByWard Market, the local councillor, the mayor and now several business owners are announcing their support for video surveillance cameras to watch over the popular entertainment district.

Popular entertainment district rocked by 3 fatal shootings since April

Three people have been shot to death in the ByWard Market since April, prompting Ottawa's mayor and the local councillor to say it's time to consider installing CCTV cameras. (CBC)

In the wake of a series of deadly shootings in the ByWard Market, the local councillor, the mayor and now several business owners are announcing their support for video surveillance cameras to watch over the popular entertainment district.

Three men have been shot dead in the ByWard Market since April, and a stabbing occurred in the early hours of Thursday morning.

At the request of Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, city staff began investigating the feasibility of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in September.

"Many large cities use them," Fleury told CBC Radio's All In A Day on Thursday.

CCTV cameras are already in place in city facilities including libraries, community centres and future light rail stations, Fleury pointed out.

In an emailed statement, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he also supports "exploring the installation of CCTV cameras to enhance the sense of safety among the public and to improve the ability of Ottawa Police Service to respond to crime."

Steve Monuk is co-owner of York Real Estate Corp., which owns eight bars and other buildings in the ByWard Market. (CBC)

Only part of the solution

Fleury said the ByWard Market has unique challenges given the number of liquor licences and social service agencies in the area.

But Fleury said he's also sensitive to privacy concerns, and acknowledged CCTV cameras alone don't guarantee safer streets.

"I don't know how far they would go to prevent [crime], and there won't be a one-tier solution to make our cities safer," he said.

Mathieu Fleury is the city councillor for the ByWard Market, which has had 3 fatal shootings in 3 months. 11:13

Most business owners who spoke with CBC Thursday were in favour of CCTV cameras as one measure toward improving safety.

"Absolutely, anything to help [get] more eyes on the street will make people feel safer," said Steve Monuk, co-owner of York Real Estate Corporation, which owns a swath of buildings and operates eight bars in the ByWard Market, including Cornerstone Bar and Grill, Pub 101 and Sens House. 

"I think if it was Big Brother with facial recognition, that's one thing. It's a fine line between privacy and safety, but people use OC Transpo every day and they have cameras, so what's the difference?" Monuk said.

Ottawa's ByWard Market is a popular draw for tourists and locals alike, especially in the warm summer months. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

John Diener, who began helping his parents run Saslove's Meat Market about 40 years ago and is now the store's owner, said he's concerned by the recent spate of violence, and would have no problem with CCTV cameras.

"I don't have any issues. If someone wants to take my picture on the way home, I am happy to even wave at the camera," he said.

Privacy concerns

Katherine McDonald, who lives a few blocks away from the market's bars and restaurants, didn't see an issue with the cameras, either.

"If you want to apprehend the suspects or witnesses who are refusing to come forward to give information, then I think CCTV would be a good idea," she said.   

McDonald has teenaged relatives visiting this summer and said CCTV cameras would give her a sense of security. 

"If you're an honest person and you're going about your business, there should be no reason at all to be concerned about the cameras."

Market visitor Jessica Baird says when it comes to CCTV cameras, she's torn between concerns over public safety and concerns about privacy. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

But not everyone is convinced placing CCTV cameras in public areas is a wise idea.

"I'm actually still on the fence about it and I haven't made up my mind," said Jessica Baird. "We're trying to keep the community protected, but I don't want to be watched all the time as I walk through here."

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