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City has eyes on you

 

Commit a crime around a downtown Kelowna park and chances are 'Big Brother' is watching you.

Several city owned cameras have been installed in the city's downtown area over the past couple of years to provide citizens and tourists with an 'increased level of security.'

"People will have noticed last year we put cameras up at Stuart Park. There is also a camera at the new washroom in City Park and a new camera installed at Queensway," says Kelowna's risk manager, Lance Kayfish.

Cameras have also been installed at the foot of Lawrence and Leon avenues across from entrances to City Park.

The Leon Avenue camera replaces one the RCMP had installed, but has since decommissioned.

"That camera network is to create an increased level of security and monitor City Park and (other) city parks," says Kayfish.

"The ones at Lawrence and Leon can look into what are two major entrances to and from City Park."

Kayfish says it doesn't make sense to pepper the park with cameras, so instead, they are covering two of the major routes in and out of the park.

"By covering the entrances and exits on major routes it gives us some images of the area we can use for different safety measures."

The downtown system was made possible by a $150,000 grant the City received from the provincial government a few years ago.

Kayfish says the grant allowed the City to cost effectively build a back-end system to the point where the incremental cost of adding new cameras to the system was quite inexpensive.

The City also has security cameras at both the Parkinson Rec Centre (PRC) and Rutland Arena.

"In both locations there are ones that point at the parking lot for staff and public safety.

At the PRC we also have cameras outside the locker room."

Some municipalities have cameras inside change rooms, however, Kayfish says the City has not and will not go there.

"We also have cameras at a lot of our water reservoirs for operational reasons as well as from a security perspective."

"If someone was tampering with...or something caused the water to be contaminated we could review the video for that purpose."

Kayfish cautions cameras are not monitored by staff, in fact, strict guidelines are in place regarding who can view the tapes and why.

"There are very strict controls over who can view the video, even stricter controls about who can review the video and again, even stricter controls over who can create a recording," says Kayfish.

"For the RCMP to be able to review or get a copy of the video - they need to make a formal request to the city to get it. That said if something happens a city staff person could sit down with a member of the RCMP and review the video with them and if they decide they want a copy they would then have to fill out the paperwork."

He says surveillance cameras are one more tool to ensure public safety.

"I always stress the City of Kelowna is in the business of public safety but we are also in the business of protecting citizens interests and rights.

Protection of people's privacy is paramount which is why we have tight controls on who can see the video, who can review the video and who can potentially take a recording of the video in increasing levels of accountability."

Kayfish says the surveillance system also provides some flexibility and 'cool' features.

"For instance if we set up at a location where we suspect graffiti is a problem we can program the camera so it will send us an email or an alarm saying graffiti is happening. It will recognize what is happening."

A similar system is being used at Kelowna International Airport.

Kayfish says cameras are programmed in such a way that if someone drops or leaves a bag, security will be alerted after a specified time that the bag has been left behind.

He stresses that, while the City does have the ability to monitor the security system at any time, it is something the City doesn't do.

What do you think about the city being wired with cameras? Send us your thoughts to [email protected]

 

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