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Surveillance cameras coming to two parks, downtown library

Published on

Troy Shantz

If you’re planning a trip to the beach at Canatara this summer be aware that your actions will be recorded on surveillance cameras.

Canatara Park together with its famed beach is one of three public locations at which electronic eyes will begin monitoring people’s behaviour by the end of this month in a bid to reduce crime and vandalism, the city says.

The other locations are Centennial Park and the downtown Sarnia Library branch.

“We’re trying to cover the greatest areas of concern in these spaces to start with,” said parks and recreation director Rob Harwood.

He wouldn’t say exactly where cameras will be installed but hinted that structures, entrances and beach parking areas are likely candidates.

“We wish that we didn’t have to do it, but it’s been proven that it’s an effective crime prevention technique.”

The Canatara cameras were funded in part by a donation from Unifor Local 672 and Local 848. They will be set up in self-sustaining units that will house multiple cameras and recording hardware.

The city is working with Sarnia Police to determine the areas they should be trained on.

At Sarnia Library, the front entrance and staff parking lot will be under watch, along with 12 possible other vantage points. Andrew Meyer, Lambton County’s corporate cultural manager said a contractor’s input will be used for the rest of the camera placements.

“The locations are based on high-risk, high-value asset protection areas — the entrances,” he said. “It’s a big facility so we don’t always have eyes on every corner of the building.”

It is becoming increasingly common in Sarnia to look up and find security camera staring back at you. Last summer, the Journal discovered about 65% of downtown businesses use surveillance cameras.

According to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, public institutions are turning to video surveillance in an effort to enhance public safety, but it also warns the spread of cameras can place an individual’s privacy at risk.

“If the technology can be justified, institutions should then consider how to deploy it and how the information will be used,” the Commissioner’s office said in an email.

And what are municipal officials going to do to ensure citizen privacy is protected?

Meyer said the library cameras will only be accessed in the event of a conflict or crime, and then only by the branch supervisor on site.

Harwood said the recorded content will be accessible to both police and parks staff.

“If you have nothing to hide, then there’s really no need to be worried about it,” he said. “This is for the protection of public property that we all pay taxes towards.”

Harwood acknowledged the park cameras will come with a network feature allowing them to be viewed from a computer off site.

Visitors to Canatara one day last week said they weren’t concerned about being watched while enjoying the beach.

Emily Potter, a city mother of three, said she appreciates a ‘second set of eyes,’ coming to city parks.

“The use of cameras at the playground is fine with me, one way or the other. Nothing out of the ordinary happens when families are there playing, but in the event, heaven forbid, something terrible occurred, like a child wandering off or wandering off with a stranger, surveillance might help in a situation like that,” she said.

Sarnia mom Shayna Daley was also happy to hear cameras are on the way.

“When I come to the park with my son… I feel a bit vulnerable,” she said. “It’s a park, not a place to come party.”

 

 

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