Local Residents not Smiling for the Surveillance Cameras on King Street

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There is a growing frustration among business owners and their customers in Millbrook’s downtown core over the installation of several surveillance cameras on the former Daisy Mart location at the intersection of King and Tupper streets.  While acknowledging cameras can play an important role in crime deterrence, residents are upset because these cameras face out into the streets rather than at the vacant building.  There is a concern that the owner is recording activities in neighbouring public spaces including the sidewalk and the public intersection, and ask that “existing privacy guidelines be followed and (that) these cameras be removed or directed toward the premises.”

After submitting a letter to the editor last month outlining arguments suggesting these cameras represented a breach of privacy laws, residents took their concerns to Council to seek help in removing or redirecting them.

Their concerns did not fall on deaf ears, and Mayor McFadden came equipped to the meeting with expert advice about the matter.

The legal opinion secured by township from Russell, Christie, LLP representative Edward Veldboom clarified that the quotation used by the delegation formed part of the guidelines issued by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, rather than from a piece of legislation.  Private surveillance cameras utilized in public spaces do not breach any law, and the township has no jurisdiction or authority concerning such cameras, and therefore has no ability to force their removal or redirection.

Veldbloom explained that there is no federal or provincial legislation at this time that imposes rules and/or regulations concerning the installation and operation of surveillance cameras in public spaces, but only to the use of the recordings secured by them.

The Peterborough Police offered a similar response.  The police force encourages the use of technology like cameras to prevent crime and protect private property, and acknowledges that surveillance cameras are a tool they have promoted for many years.  Their concerns relate only to the use of the video collected by these cameras:  its only appropriate use is to assist with solving a crime and the only legitimate use of the recordings is for law enforcement.  They reinforced the principle that the cameras should not interfere with the public’s expectation of privacy, but argue that the respectful and responsible use of these tools is a significant deterrent to criminal activity and help keep communities safe.

Rather than take it personally, perhaps we should feel sorry for the person whose job it is to review the recordings, if indeed there are any, as it should prove to be quite boring viewing.  Locals know that we save our theatrics for the stage and occasionally the beer tent. KG

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