chinatown cctv cameras

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. 

"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. 

Several attendees took to social media to express frustration about the fact that no evidence was provided for why these particular intersections were chosen. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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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