Is it a public safety device or an infringement of privacy?
Kamloops City council and RCMP revisited the pros and cons of installing surveillance cameras in the downtown during a strategy session Tuesday morning.
Discussions over crime and violence during the "bar flush" when liquor establishments shut down led Coun. Ken Christian to wonder whether there was an appetite for surveillance cameras.
The City's Coordinated Enforcement Task Force made a similar suggestion last fall while addressing violence and crime at the downtown bus loop. The initiative never materialized.
Several months later, the question is still eliciting a broad range of responses.
Staff Sgt. Mike Savage supported to the idea, saying images would only be used in cases such as serious offences and crucial evidence requirements, not as "fishing trips."
But fishing expeditions were precisely what worried Coun. Arjun Singh, who expressed concern over privacy. He also suggested it may not be the right strategy for dealing with the bar flush and downtown crime.
"You attack the issue, not the person," said Singh.
Coun. Nancy Bepple also questioned the enforcement approach.
"London has the most cameras in the world and that didn't stop the riots," she said.
Christian expressed support for the idea, as did Coun. Marg Spina.
Lacasse said the police are interested, but it would have to be a council initiative.
"We're pretty biased. Public safety is our number one concern. Privacy?" he said, shrugging.
It's more than the bar flush plaguing the neighbourhood, said Coun. Tina Lange. The former downtown business owner was vehement in her disdain for the "undesirables" who roam the neighbourhood panhandling, blatantly dealing drugs and smoking crack and marijuana in open spaces.
She said tourists have spoken to her about their shock at seeing panhandlers and female Kamloops residents have told her they refuse to go downtown at night anymore.
Her suggestion that prolific offending panhandlers be banned from the downtown was dismissed as unenforceable.
Spina took a more tempered approach towards panhandlers, saying it's about balancing safety with community tolerance.
She said her time as a director of a food bank caused her to be unafraid of "people who look different" and suggested the City approach social agencies to set "a tone" for its clients encouraging good behaviour.
"We did that at the food bank," she said. "When there was swearing, acting out, those people didn't get served that day."
Mayor Peter Milobar left the strategy session shortly before the debate over surveillance cameras and couldn't be reached for comment by press time.
However before leaving, he acknowledged improved measures could be adopted in the downtown, but suggested councillors keep the panhandling situation in perspective.
"I have not yet been to a city, including Japan and China and everything else, where that hasn't been beggars and panhandlers and scruffy-looking people in a downtown core, including Vancouver," said Milobar.
"The aggressiveness of the panhandlers when you're walking down Robson Street or Granville Street is much worse than anything you might have in Kamloops.
"I'm not saying ignore the problem. But to overplay what's actually happening doesn't serve the interests of the city either."
REACTION ON TWITTER
mdbowser: @KamNews increased presence is way more effective than surveillance: deter crime while protecting the privacy of the public.
tdmatthew: @KamNews I totally support this! I would feel a lot safer!
sforseth000: @KamNews - we have them here in #williamslake and if you've done nothing wrong then one should not fear surv. cameras... :)
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