CCTV coming to a bus in your neighbourhood

Big Brother is boarding the bus.

TransLink has approved a budget of almost $4 million to install "security cameras and video recording equipment" on the region's bus fleet.

"The purpose of the video system is to deter”¦on-board security incidents, improve the safety of bus operators and passengers, and provide evidence for investigation of incident claims," reads a staff report that went before the July 18 TransLink board meeting.

The staff report stated that although measures have been put in place to protect both bus operators and riders, "about 2,500 safety-related incidents still occur annually on-board buses in Greater Vancouver, many of these as a result of aggressive behaviour and physical assaults".

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner won't be getting in the way of this project. Jim Burrows , an OIPC portfolio officer reviewing TransLink's "privacy impact assessment", told the Straight that the OIPC neither approves nor rejects plans by public bodies to put up public-surveillance systems, and only makes "comments" on whether or not these are consistent with the agency's guidelines. "The outstanding matters are very small," he said.

Andrew Pask , coordinator of the Vancouver Public Space Network , told the Straight that he's concerned about the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buses. "People should be able to use public spaces without having to be recorded, without having their movement tracked, their conversations taped, their actions videoed," he said. "People should have that right. When you start infringing on it, you start inching ever closer to a police state."

The TransLink staff report estimated the annual cost for the CCTV system at $470,000. In return, the project is expected to generate annual savings of about $140,000 "for cost-related reductions in vandalism, absenteeism, assaults-related costs and insurance claims and premiums".

Micheal Vonn , policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association , told the Straight that her group has yet to formulate its position regarding the installation of cameras on buses.