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COMMENTARY · 6th July 2013
Walter McFarlane
With recent fires at the abandoned Hotel, the bomb scare, the break and enters in Kitimat, one would think that crime is up… Is it time to put a doomed proposal back onto the drawing board?

Five years ago, a group of business owners gathered at Pedro's Grill. They were upset following a rash of Vandalism, graffiti painted on their buildings and the surrounding buildings in the green space between the Mall and the Post Office.

And thus, the Community Crime Reduction Initiative was formed! ! !

The members sitting around the table included Tony Brady, Joanne Monaghan, Barb Campbell, Father Pier Pandolfo, Constable David Fahlman and many other concerned members of the community of Kitimat including myself.

The CCRI moved to the Chamber of Commerce and that’s where the meetings would be held. They had several proposals which included Restorative Justice, which was an optional sentence for offenders to allow them to make amends to the community which they had wronged, Citizens on Patrol where concerned individuals biked around town from the evening to the wee hours of the morning keeping tabs on who was in what areas of the town and a program which was put on by Father Pandolfo to have the church youth group paint over graffiti with Paint which was picked up at the Recycling Depot.

However, the topic which received the most talk both in the CCRI Meetings and in Council was the Safety Camera Proposal.

The safety cameras were to be placed around town in strategic locations within the down town core, Nechako Centre, Service Centre and in certain parts of the residential neighbourhoods where the crime rates were highest. The cameras would record 24/7 although, due to privacy laws, they could not be monitored, only accessed if a crime had taken place.

There were a lot of options which were talked about, from signs telling people the area they were walking through could be monitored to mobile cameras which could be moved around town.

There was some opposition. Privacy was a big concern. The location for the viewing area shifted from City Hall to the Police Station. There was also the concern that Administration was putting off Council’s big decision by leaving it off of the Council Package.

In the summer of 2009, Kitimat Council, the CCRI and representatives of the various security firms got together and toured around Kitimat at the locations where the cameras would be set up. During the tour, Mayor Joanne Monaghan disappeared into a derelict building which was supposed to have been ‘secured’ against intrusion. She came out and informed the rest of the group that a little clubhouse had been set up in there.

Then, Kitimat lost Eurocan. This led to an early budget which Council worked hard over three days to trim and cut from. The Camera’s lasted until the very end. Throughout the discussion and the debate, there was a strong insistence that another one of Council’s projects, the new Animal Shelter for the Humane Society was of the upmost importance. Most of the work on the building was being done by volunteers at the time and if the materials were not paid for, the volunteers would move on to other projects and leave the work unfinished.

In the end, it was Councillor Rob Goffinet who determined the best course of action, to make Council decide which was more important, Community Safety or Community Animal Welfare. They decided to give the money from the Cameras to the Animal Shelter.

The camera’s faded from Council and were eventually removed from Council’s to-do list in May of 2012.

Over the last 6 months, there have been a number of things happening which have been reported in the newspapers, on Facebook and around town. The break and enters, fires, stolen vehicles and Friday’s bomb scare has me thinking it is time to revisit the Safety Camera proposal.

Is it a good idea? There are pros and cons. Being able to identify the people involved in some of the recent problems is a pro. It would deter crimes if people think there might be a camera in the area. On the con side, there is the cost, the concerns about privacy and the fact that the cameras cannot be everywhere at once and cannot pick up everything.

But there is more going on in Kitimat than what we read in the newspapers and the limited information in the crime statistics which go before Council every month. What about the Friday Night/Saturday Morning Zombie Walk from the Keg to the Hotel? Simply hearing about the crimes in the community through the rumour mill certainly doesn’t make me feel safe. It also makes me wonder what we are not being told.

While the camera’s may not solve the problem, what are the other options. More police on patrol at night? Citizens on a bike patrol putting their own lives in danger for their neighbours? A curfew perhaps? Something else where we would lose more of our personal freedoms in a vain attempt to protect our safety?

What do you think. Is there a better answer? Comment below…
Just another target.
Comment by Mike Forward on 7th July 2013
I think the cameras themselves could end up being fairly costly prey for anyone in the mood for damaging property. For that reason moreso than any privacy concerns, I'd lean against it.
Absolutely Not!
Comment by Private! on 6th July 2013
Every day little by little our established rights to reasonable privacy are dissapearing. The last thing we need is more cameras recording our every move. I abide by the law and find it offensive to suggest that if you don't want cameras you must have something to hide. My Canada is a free democracy and I wish to keep it that way. Don't ever take your freedoms lightly or one morning you will awaken to a police state. If you don't know about that just ask an old timers who does.
Cameras for Safety
Comment by CEM on 6th July 2013
If you aren't doing anything wrong why should one worry whether there are cameras. The police can't be everywhere all the time. I say put them up where needed .