Toronto Police are putting surveillance cameras in Chinatown and people aren't happy
Toronto Police Services is getting ready to install some of the 40 new closed-circuit television cameras promised as a way to deter gun violence in the city, but one neighbourhood is speaking out against them.
TPS held a public meeting last night to discuss the installation of CCTV police surveillance cameras at Dundas and Bathurst streets, Dundas West and Spadina Avenue, and Queen West and Augusta Avenue.
Residents of Chinatown, Kensington and Queen West as well as members of Friends of Chinatown TO, a community grassroots organization, came out to express their concerns about the cameras.
"Heightened police surveillance will target poor + BIPOC folks—Police surveillance does NOT equal safety," Friends of Chinatown TO tweeted Sunday along with a flyer for the meeting, which took place at the neighbourhood police station at 7 p.m. Monday.
Toronto Police Services is holding a public meeting on MONDAY (tomorrow) at 7PM re: the installation of CCTV police surveillance cameras in Chinatown, Kensington, Queen St W.— Friends of Chinatown TO (@chinatownFOCT) March 8, 2020
Heightened police surveillance will target poor + BIPOC folks—Police surveillance does NOT equal safety. pic.twitter.com/i0iihn8BAp
"This public meeting about TPS installing police surveillance cameras in Chinatown, Kensington, Queen West is happening TONIGHT," another resident tweeted yesterday. "Come to voice your concerns on the effect that increased surveillance + police presence will have on poor and BIPOC folks! Surveillance is NOT safety."
Around 50 concerned residents came out to ask police for evidence that the cameras actually decrease violence and increase safety, but they were left disappointed.
This "consultation" RE: installation of cameras is basically @TPSOperations telling us they're doing it. No data to justify the cameras provided, no info re: cost, & nobody of any influence. 50 ppl showed up on the nicest night of the year & everyone here doesn't want the cameras pic.twitter.com/7PmxTDVVGE— Daniel Rotsztain (@theurbangeog) March 9, 2020
Several attendees took to social media to express frustration about the fact that no evidence was provided for why these particular intersections were chosen.
This isn’t a real community consultation without any evidence that these CCTV surveillance cameras are needed in Chinatown, Kensington, and Queen West.— Diana Yoon 🌅 (@DianaYoonTO) March 9, 2020
No data or statistics provided on how this will deter crime and why they’ve picked these intersections. https://t.co/Y7HVXRG13E
Friends of Chinatown TO reported that nearly half the attendees walked out of the meeting before it was over due to the lack of information provided to residents.
Nearly half of attendees walked out of the meeting tonight before it was over. Our community is deeply disappointed with the lack of preperation shown on behalf of @TorontoPolice and its board. No studies, no community canvassing, not even info on the physical cameras themselves. pic.twitter.com/HTVkZoBHHd— Friends of Chinatown TO (@chinatownFOCT) March 10, 2020
According to one resident, the police officer leading the meeting was unable to provide any information on the budget for the cameras or how they typically impact actual communities.
A couple updates on how meeting went: police officer conducting the consultation was not able to answer any questions around budget ("I don't know anything about that"), the impact of surveillance on BIPOC communities, the fact that research suggests CCTV does not deter crime.— lorraine 👩🏻💻 (@digitallorraine) March 10, 2020
Premier Doug Ford and Toronto Mayor John Tory announced plans to bring the total number of CCTV cameras operating in Toronto from 34 to 74 over the next three years back in August. The province committed $3 million toward the initiative.
At the time, Police Chief Mark Saunders said he had received numerous requests from communities for more cameras, though he didn't specify which ones.
He also said the existing CCTV network had a "tremendous impact" on the force's ability to pursue criminals.
But research suggests these cameras don't always make communities safer.
According to Canadian Lawyer Mag, CCTV surveillance cameras actually do little to deter crime. And a study from Ryerson University found that CCTV cameras often don't make women feel safer in their communities.
In July, U.K. expert Martin Gill told CBC News the cameras raise obvious privacy concerns and can also force crime into areas where the cameras aren't as prevalent.
You should contact the Police Services Board directly. They determine how the police spend their time and money. https://t.co/crx8HznFO1— Mike Layton (@m_layton) March 10, 2020
Toronto police told attendees of last night's meeting that they want this process to be "open and transparent," but the form given to residents did not include any contact information.
Friends of Chinatown TO noted this on Twitter and asked who they should contact to voice their concerns, to which city councillor Mike Layton responded that they should reach out to the Police Services Board directly.
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