Ottawa

Ottawa police chief calls for more surveillance cameras

More surveillance cameras should be keeping an eye on citizens in Ottawa's downtown core, says the city's chief of police.

Cameras reduce privacy, not crime, critic says

More surveillance cameras should be keeping an eye on citizens in Ottawa's downtown core, says the city's chief of police.

"I'm not suggesting that the police have a police-owned state where we maintain security and surveillance over our citizens," Chief Vern White told a public meeting Tuesday sponsored by Crime Prevention Ottawa.

"I'm telling you that I believe it would assist the police in criminal investigations and may assist citizens who make complaints against police, possibly."

Criminal lawyer Mark Ertel argued that such closed-circuit TV cameras don't deliver any real reductions in crime.

Britain, he argued, has one of the world's highest rates of common assault and other petty crimes, and those crimes have continued to grow despiteanincrease in CCTV cameras that now number four-million.

The camerasreducepeople's privacy and civil liberties, Ertel told the meeting.

Carleton professor Josh Greenberg, who is conducting a publicly funded study of CCTV cameras, said researchers watching surveillance camera operators consistently found that they focus their cameras more on some types of people than others, such as young black or aboriginal men.

The studies also found that camera operators often use their systems to ogle women and girls and compare their sexual attributes.

Nevertheless, many in the crowd said they didn't care about privacy concerns and the cameras would make them feel safer.

"The streets of Ottawa downtown are not like they were in the 50s," said one woman. "There wasn't crack and all the other stuff that seriously affects our downtown neighbourhoods and makes us feel unsafe."

But one woman in the audience said cameras made her feel less safe.

"I'm not going to feel more secure that my daughters and I are on tape," she said, "where somebody is watching me, when I have no idea what's being done with the tape that's being made, I have no idea about what could be done in the future in terms of creating a record about my movements in public space."