Smile the next time you’re playing in the park after 11 p.m. — you may be on camera.
But if you are being filmed, it likely won’t be long until you hear about it — literally.
For the cost of $130 a night, the city is renting a mobile Proactive Audio Visual surveillance system in a bid to cut down on cases of loitering and vandalism in city parks after dark.
The video cameras are triggered by motion and images are transmitted to an operator at city hall, who can address the subjects directly through a speaker and warn them they are not supposed to be in the area.
“Some people have described it as the voice of God,” Bob Gauvreau, Ottawa’s corporate security manager, said of the live-voice feature. “If you are in there at night, you just hear the voice. There is no flashing lights or alarms. I would say 98 per cent of people leave the area immediately.”
If intruders do not leave right away, then a security guard, bylaw officer or police can be dispatched, depending on what is happening in the park.
Vandalism in parks has cost the city $169,000 from January 2007 until the present. And a few years ago, the city had a problem with vandals throwing paint or automotive oil into city pools. Damages had hit around $700,000 before camera systems were installed.
Gauvreau said the mobile units work similar to the permanent surveillance systems installed at public pools, several parks and on the 417 pedestrian overpass. The units will be moved to different parks throughout the summer to gauge whether permanent cameras are needed.
Stittsville-Kanata West Coun. Shad Qadri said over the weekend there were a couple incidents when the mobile unit was put to use in his ward.
“Even though it’s there to watch at night, even during the day it’s acting as a deterrent to others from doing anything,” he said.
For those concerned about privacy, Gauvreau insists the system is only activated from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and there is software that blanks out property not belonging to the city.
“We don’t do any observation during the day,” he said. “The role of this equipment is to protect city property. We only view city property, we do not view other people’s property.”