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COMMENTARY · 20th October 2012
Walter McFarlane
In June, 2008, I took a trip to Alberta to see my relatives in Sherwood Park. As we drove into town, I looked out my windows at the storefronts and walls for vandalism and graffiti. The community had a reputation for law enforcement relating to vandalism.

A week earlier, I had been in a meeting at Pedro’s with several business owners and concerned members of the community who were upset after a vandal had gone through the downtown core tagging buildings with spray paint.

The group put several plans into place to help keep their homes and businesses safe. The first was to reinstitute Restorative Justice, a system where an offender has the opportunity to make amends for their crimes through community service. Another was Citizens on Patrol, where local residents could get a bike and a red jacket from the RCMP and patrol the neighbourhoods noting activity going on in them.

The third, and this is one of those good ideas which failed, was the Public Safety Camera Initiative. The idea, which was put forward, was to put cameras around the community in areas which see a lot of vandalism.

The idea met opposition from the City Hall Administration for a variety of reasons. One of which was who would monitor the cameras. However, privacy laws prevent the cameras from being monitored, just looked at in the case of a crime.

The cameras were talked about in 2008, 2009 and in 2010, they were finally going to be implemented. Council, the Community Crime Reduction Initiative and Security firms toured the community of Kitimat to look at the high vandalism areas.

During the tour of Nechako Centre, Mayor Joanne Monaghan disappeared for a few minutes. She had found a door, left unsecured into the abandoned building which had been turned into a sort of club house for a group of local people. She expressed this had caught her off guard.

The cameras were not to be. After losing Eurocan in 2009, the money which had been earmarked in the 2010 budget was taken away. This was after the Kitimat City Council budgeted less money to the RCMP, enough money so two police officers would be looking for work elsewhere.

Council at the time, had several ‘Pet’ projects. One of them, a project which the Mayor supported, was underfunded and the debate on it was turning nasty. Monaghan even made an off kilter remark to me against several of her Councillors while we were going into one of these budget meetings.

Finally, it was Rob Goffinet’s solution, comparable to the solution made by King Solomon when two mothers claimed the same baby for their own… Cut the baby in half.

He asked Council to choose which was more important, the Safety Cameras or the Animal Shelter. Council chose the Animal Shelter. In 2012, Council was going through their list of projects and finally removed the project from the list.

Of the two projects which I brought up during my look back on the last 5 years this week, both projects had their moneys drained into the animal shelter.

A few days after the 2010 budget meeting, a friend noted the reduction of the police positions and safety cameras, among other things, showed that animals are more important than people in Kitimat. He suggested the name of the town should be changed to Kitty-mutt. What do you think?

The first Meeting

The First Presentation to Council

The presentation on Cameras

The Tour

Budget 2010: Cameras gone

Cameras Removed from the List