Windsor council approves 20 new surveillance cameras for downtown core

Windsor city council approved 20 new surveillance cameras for the downtown core at Monday's meeting. 

Installation should begin in 2020 and the project will cost about $450,000

In this photo taken Tuesday, May 7, 2019, is a security camera in the Financial District of San Francisco. San Francisco is on track to become the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial recognition by police and other city agencies as the technology creeps increasingly into daily life. ( (Eric Risberg/The Associated Press)

Windsor city council approved 20 new surveillance cameras for the downtown core at Monday night's meeting. 

The cameras are a commitment Drew Dilkens made when running for a second term as Windsor's mayor.

Dilkens said community safety concerns are behind his push for more surveillance cameras. 

"Windsor Police Services and the emergency services headquarters at Windsor Fire & Rescue Services will also have access to the cameras, allowing them to more effectively allocate resources," said Dilkens in a statement on his website. 

The cameras will have a "dual use" by city traffic enforcement to monitor real-time events and make modifications to traffic flow as needed, according to Dilkens.

University of Windsor law professor Kristen Thomasen said people expect a level of privacy while in public — and the cameras might cross a line.

Despite a watchful eye over city streets, privacy expert Kristen Thomasen said people expect a level of privacy while in public.  (Tom Addison/CBC)

"The way that privacy law has been constructed or understood in Canada has typically been to say that when you're out in public you expect less privacy," said Thomasen. "To some degree, you can expect privacy ... but the increasing use of technologies like facial recognition engage a type of privacy that courts in both Canada and the United States have recognized is important."

According to Thomasen, courts are being faced with new questions due to new technology, so the line is "grey" rather than black and white. 

Thomasen said research into surveillance cameras and crime doesn't prove the cameras make an area more safe. 

"The evidence has not proven that it has the effect of eliminating or deterring crime," said Thomasen. "If anything, it might have the effect of moving crime ... if there's a camera on Pelissier, somebody moves over to Maiden Lane instead."

Henry Kim, who owns Cafe March 21 on Pelissier Street, has put up his own surveillance cameras spanning almost the entire block — and he's provided footage of various area crimes to police. 

"Cameras can't prevent all crimes from happening, but I think criminals see the cameras and might think twice," said Kim, who added that he thinks they are worth the investment. 

According to Kim, 20 cameras are a good start. 

"They can always add more," said Kim. "I think if we have more security cameras in the downtown core from the city, we might be able to trace [crime] better."

Thomasen said there are other ways to spend the money — $450,000 — that might better target crime. 

Installation of the 20 surveillance cameras should begin sometime in 2020.