Video of event
By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Cobourg’s is one of 18 police services across the province to share a $1.6-million investment the province is making in closed-circuit television systems through the Ontario CCTV Grant program.
The share to be made available to Cobourg Police Service is $200,000, which will cover 50% of the total project cost, including purchase of CCTV cameras, associated supplies and software (as well as installation costs).
At a Friday announcement at the Venture 13 innovation and entrepreneurship centre (with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones as guest of honour), Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini reiterated the province’s commitment to safe communities that has extended to funding programs to support major investigations units and community policing, as well as enhanced training for correctional staff and staff on the front lines.
Throughout the event, Piccini often referred to the Guns and Gangs initiative that aims to target and divert at-risk youth before they get involved with gangs.
“It’s a holistic approach that understands it’s not just about police, it’s about community-based partners – I’m really proud of that.”
Jones said the Ontario CCTV Grant was announced in August, and will invest $6-million over three years, with municipal, OPP and First Nation police forces eligible to apply.
“Front-line police tell us CCTV technology works and is one of the best tools we have to gain a critical advantage over criminal organizations,” she stated.
Footage recorded not only captures in-the-act incidents, but also facial and other images that are vital to identifying suspects and providing crucial evidence. With the night-vision capability and 360-degree field of vision now available, the value of this technology is all the more important.
Cobourg Police Services Board Chair Dean Pepper spoke of their commitment to protect the safety, security and equality of life through community engagement and strategic partnerships. He expressed confidence in this technology to deter violent crime and ensure perpetrators are held accountable.
“Community safety is a shared responsibility that requires an integrated approach to bring municipalities, First Nations and community partners together,” Cobourg Police Chief Paul VandeGraaf stated.
With this grant, VandeGraaf envisions a privately managed network that will incorporate police, municipal and privately owned video cameras all interfaced.
“Embedded analytic tools will reduce time spent on video analysis, increase effectiveness of outcome, measurably increase clearance rates and impact or prevent further victimization,” the chief said.
“This network will provide another layer of support in the assistance of locating missing or wandering persons.”
VandeGraaf shared results from an environmental scan conducted in July in which 79% of respondents felt CCTV technology is effective in preventing crime and 91% thought it would be effective in apprehending criminals.
The chief spoke of the force’s Next Generation Community Safety Strategy, and the role that a new initiative – the Police Tech Accelerator, which was launched in February – can play.
Executive director Wendy Curtis called it an extreme partnership, “because it is part of a wonderful momentum that can be game-changing.
“Our goal is to position the Cobourg Police Service at the forefront of emerging technologies and innovations that can drive operational excellence.”
And among their partnerships, Curtis added, are some of the best minds at regional post-secondary institutions as well as some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in Eastern Ontario – all investigating the possibilities that may be afforded by such emerging technologies as thermal imaging, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality.
VandeGraaf acknowledged that some may see CCTV technology as a Big Brother threat to privacy. In fact, he agreed that it does reduce the privacy the average citizen might hope to have.
But Piccini noted that the trade-off is an important consideration, citing the recent march he attended in honour of a local citizen’s loved one who had been attacked and was still clinging to life – in that case, he noted, “her offender was caught using this technology.”
“They will never replace police officers, they will never replace the community and citizen engagement to ensure our friends and neighbours are safe, but it is a tool that has led and will continue to lead to successful apprehensions and ultimately convictions,” Solicitor General Jones added.
“I will ensure our CCTV program and our integrated mesh network will meet and exceed all privacy standards as outlined by the Ontario Privacy Commissioner, and I will ensure it is used with the integrity our citizens are entitled to,” VandeGraaf pledged.
The deployment of the equipment will be a mix of properly signed and completely unsigned installations for both their own cameras and for others in the network, he added.
“There’s an old saying – if we don’t exercise technology, the criminals will, so we’ll keep some things secret.”