Vancouver police want say in future of Olympic surveillance cameras

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      The Vancouver Police Department would like to see a closed-circuit television system installed to monitor crowds during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games undergo an extensive review.

      According to Const. Lindsey Houghton, it is ultimately up to Vancouver city council whether the 89 cameras stay or go. But the VPD spokesperson said that the police should be considered one of several stakeholders involved in that decision.

      However, Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer told the Straight that procedures are already in motion to remove all of the cameras from where they were installed in the run up to the Games.

      Some will likely be removed before then and, depending on staff resources, some may remain up a little longer, Reimer said. But monitoring of the cameras’ feeds will cease at midnight on March 29.

      “That was clear from the outset of the decision to use them for the Olympic Games at all,” she emphasized.

      Ever since city council approved financing for the CCTV system in March 2009, privacy advocates have cried foul. Opponents of the system such as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Micheal Vonn expressed concern that the cameras would never be removed, which was the case in Athens, Greece, after the 2004 Olympics.

      According to Reimer, the city will hold on to 14 of the 89 cameras for possible deployment in cases of “large events”. The remaining 75 will be sold.

      Anticipating the Straight’s next round of questions, Reimer then said that a protocol to define what constitutes a “large event” was being worked out, and that the cameras were purchased and not leased because that was the cheaper course of action.

      Houghton told the Straight that the Vancouver Police Department found the CCTV cameras “very useful” during the Games.

      He recalled one incident where a 16-year-old boy was struck by a car as tens of thousands of people spilled out onto the streets after an Olympic hockey game.

      The accident was actually witnessed on the city’s CCTV system in real time, which allowed for an ambulance to be dispatched almost immediately, Houghton said. What’s more, in a situation where most witnesses would have left the scene before authorities could arrive, the VPD was able to see exactly how the accident occurred.

      “So from an investigative point of view, that’s extremely helpful,” he added.

      Asked if the Olympic CCTV system was used to monitor demonstrations during the Games, Houghton replied that if protesters moved through areas monitored by CCTV cameras, that information could be used by the VPD.

      Vonn, policy director for the BCCLA, said that it “remains to be seen” if her organization’s privacy concerns will be addressed.

      “We are in a bit of a holding pattern here,” she told the Straight. “We will be very happy to give kudos where they are deserved, once we are actually sure what is going on.”

      Vonn was less worried about an additional 900 CCTV cameras installed in and around Olympic venues. Those were leased as opposed to purchased, she noted. And they are controlled by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, which will be disbanded after the conclusion of the Paralympic Games.

      But Vonn still questioned both the city’s and the ISU’s claims on the future of the CCTV equipment.

      “The truth is that there has been such an effort made to obfuscate the issues of the cameras that we are not having a very trusting relationship at this point,” she said.

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      Mar 3, 2010 at 4:56pm

      yeah? well the police won't get a say. the people should decide - these cameras are coming down!

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      Mar 3, 2010 at 7:37pm

      what else do you expect from the police state that has been formed. they don't have the problems in other countries, so why do we have them here?
      could it be because of the whey police act. look at the airport and the cop who caused the death of the biker. should we trust them??? I DON'T THINK SO!!!!

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      Mar 3, 2010 at 8:11pm

      I'd be open to streaming them online so every one has access to the live feed. But paid monitoring, live, by police or having only police access to recorded footage is a great infringement of rights and opens possibility for mis use.

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      Mar 3, 2010 at 8:56pm

      They worked great during the proved that the only people with anything to worry about were the violent protesters.

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      Mar 4, 2010 at 8:26am

      It's time to back up and restore a society of normalcy and trust, based on respect and warmth of spirit, not fear, paranoia and control. Privacy is the foundation of democracy, along with freedom of thought, speech, and assembly, and a transparent and open government that is accountable to the people.

      One of the biggest threats currently hanging over all of us is the mis-use of money and technology for universal total surveillance. The surveillance state is already far further advanced than the government and intelligence apparati are willing to let on. The "War on Terror" is a flimsy rationale for the insidious encroachment on every human right and liberty by the corporate / military / intelligence complex for whom growth, money and power are the only objectives. President Eisenhower was right in warning us of the erosion and takeover of democracy by the unwarranted power of this most powerful and resourceful global sociopathic organisation - the military - industrial - security - intelligence complex.

      If we don't face this issue square on right now, then we will be stuck in a spider's web of control in a matter of a few years.

      No cameras, no "free speech zones", no turning away authors, journalists, and speakers at the border for fear of them criticising government policies, no maintaining of private internet surfing and email logs, no state surveillance of library records, no state surveillance of cell phone GPS records, no microchips in people, no facial recognition cameras in public spaces, no retinal scans and DNA tests, no mandatory vaccinations or pharmaceutical injections, no tasering of people for no reason, no more obsession with the ridiculous "War on Terror", no assault rifles on the streets of Vancouver, no "No Fly Lists", no "Security Detention Certificates", no torture of prisoners, no extraordinary renditions, no Guantanamo Bay gulags, no "thought crime legislation" masquerading as human rights legislation, no "Security and Prosperity Agreements, no "North American Unions", no more laws to fill up our ever expanding prisons with victimless criminals, and much LESS money and power to the police, military, and spy networks, not more.

      It's time to dismantle all the elements of a secretive, unaccountable, bloated, ever expanding, ever ambitious, insatiable police state, and restore law and order to our communities. The only terrorists are the ones in power in Ottawa, London and Washington, and their small minded minions in uniform and out. We need a major housecleaning in government, fast. Get involved. Your freedom depends on it. Stop wasting your time sitting in front of the TV set watching sports and getting fat and flabby. Do your homework and step into the political process in a meaningful and effective way.

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      Mar 4, 2010 at 9:09am

      I'd like them in our homes. Just because you're at home doesn't mean you are still allowed to break the law. You have nothing to fear if you aren't doing something wrong - in your own home. People who are against these crime-busting super-tools probably oppose full body scanners as well. Dignity is so pre 9/11.

      Etc., etc.

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      Mar 4, 2010 at 9:22am

      Why does the media keep saying 89 cameras??? I thought there were 900 cameras installed prior to the Olympics? What about the other 811 cameras that should be dismantled aswell?
      kreative kaur
      - Imagination is more important than knowledge.
      Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." - Einstein

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      Mar 4, 2010 at 9:55am

      I think we should leave the cameras up, but have a very thorough discussion about how and when the information can be accessed. It is going to be a difficult discussion, especially when you can see the benefits to emergency situations like the boy being struck by the car during the Games. The civil liberties argument is an important one, though I think it is outweighed by larger societal concerns. If I were on Granville Street during the evening and was attacked, then I would want video evidence to both help find the individual and convict them. I don't think this is a tool that will or should be used to coordinate tickets for public drinking or other petty issues.

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      Mar 4, 2010 at 12:50pm

      Great writing Strategis!

      Maybe in order to quench our thirst for public safety in a sane way, we could have mandatory minimums for violent crimes and theft instead of horticulture. It would make more sense than watching the same troublemakers commit crimes on CCTV, then putting them in jail overnight, only to watch the same show the next night.

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      Sean Bickerton

      Mar 4, 2010 at 4:27pm

      The police did an extraordinary job throughout the Games and should be praised for their restraint and professionalism. They did the city proud! Our police are some of the best-trained and most enlightened in North America.

      They should build on that goodwill by their willingness to give up a surveillance system that was only approved based on its temporary imposition and evenso generated a great deal of resistance including my own.

      The VPD will continue to garner enhanced community support by agreeing to the dismantling of what would otherwise be an oppressive and unncessarily heavy footprint in a free-spirited but peace-loving city.

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