Smile, city's watching you

The City of Kelowna says a system where they will monitor city-owned closed circuit cameras 24-7 is not the edge of a slippery slope.

The city could begin permanently monitoring their network of about 300 closed circuit security cameras as early as the first week of January.

This after city council approved a $30,000 budget item for the project Thursday.

But, building services manager Martin Johansen says the public need not worry that this is the first step in a campaign to monitor the movements of residents.

Johansen says the city was required to "go through hoops" with the Privacy Commission to be able to run the program.

He says those approvals are in place.

Only those working for the city will be allowed to monitor the feeds. They will only be shared if requested by the RCMP for a criminal matter.

The cameras that will be monitored are those at city-owned facilities such as arenas, parks, parkades, city hall, the city works yard and problem areas like the Queensway bus loop.

"Parkades are our biggest problem areas," said Johansen.

During a pilot project in July and August, he says monitoring had a "significant impact" on the city's three parkades.

That pilot project resulted in 425 coordinated responses to emerging situations involving criminal activity, mischief, loitering, and vandalism.

The monitoring system, says Johansen, will allow the city to make the best use of its security force, allowing them to respond to problem situations immediately.

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