City’s one-year pilot project will cost $500,000

« We need to be very cognizant of privacy and ensure that we’re not sliding towards a surveillance society. »


Big Brother is about to get the green light.

City council is expected to give the official go-ahead to the security camera pilot project today, a $500,000 one-year trial period placing about two dozen wireless cameras throughout the city core by summer.

Despite lingering concerns over possible privacy issues, Ward 4 alderman Bob Hawkesworth figures conducting the pilot project for at least a year should help flush out any negatives inherent in the program and would provide a good foundation to assess its feasibility into the future.

"It’s certainly worth investigating and will give us some experience with it so we can see what sorts of impacts it actually has," said Hawkesworth, who is also the chair of the standing policy committee on community and protective services that recommended council approve the pilot project with little objection in their ranks. "Council doesn’t rubber stamp, but I think there was good support at the committee level so I don’t think there will be much of a change."

But Ward 11 alderman Brian Pincott has persistently voiced concerns over the potential for security cameras to be scanning problem areas in Calgary’s downtown, but rather than their intended consequence of boosting the public’s sense of safety, he said, it looks as though they’ll play a role of pushing homeless people to other areas.

And while he’s disappointed by the near certain probability that council will approve the project today for cameras aimed at public sidewalks and green spaces, he wouldn’t be so perturbed if they were actually for security rather than what he calls public behaviour monitoring.

"We need to be very cognizant of privacy and ensure that we’re not sliding towards a surveillance society," he said. "I haven’t heard any additional information that would alleviate any of my concerns."

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