One of Toronto's roughest intersections is getting security cameras but some aren't happy
City councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam announced this week that the Toronto Police Service and the City of Toronto will be installing security cameras at the corner of Dundas East and Sherbourne Streets — an area that has long been known to be particularly crime-ridden.
Announcing the news in an online newsletter on April 20, Wong-Tam said the cameras will be installed within the next couple of weeks and will provide TPS with additional resources so they can continue to address community safety in the Cabbagetown South neighbourhood.
"For years, I have advocated for community resources across the downtown east to improve community safety," she said.
"This ongoing work has resulted in the Downtown East Action Plan which includes enhanced resources in our communities, including de-escalation teams, Parks Ambassadors, harm reduction outreach workers, increased park, street and laneway maintenance, private property needle pick up, and more."
This isn't the first time the city and police have used surveillance as a method to combat crime.
Last year, TPS began installing some 40 new closed-circuit television cameras as a way to deter increasing gun violence in the city, and the province later announced that it would be offering a $6 million grant program to allow regional police services to apply for funds to buy even more CCTV cameras.
This created quite a stir in Chinatown, where residents and members of community grassroots organization Friends of Chinatown TO spoke out against increased police surveillance and argued the cameras would do little to actually decrease violence and increase safety.
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
And just like in Chinatown, not everyone agrees that security cameras are the solution to improving community safety at Dundas and Sherbourne.
Prominent homelessness advocate Zoë Dodd posted a lengthy thread on Twitter following Wong-Tam's announcement in which she condemned the use of these cameras, explaining that police tried to install them at this very location in 2007 and were met with outrage from local community groups.
This plan to install cameras at Sherbourne & Dundas which @kristynwongtam is green lighting here is an investment in the Infrastructure of Displacement & Surveillance that has been going on for years. Cameras, Parks Ambassadors, the Downtown East Action Plan is anti-poor. https://t.co/ez165SpS1W— Shelter and Housing Justice Network (@SHJNetwork) April 21, 2021
"In 2007 local groups organized against the cameras," she wrote. "The cameras were removed just under 2 weeks of their installation."
She argued that ramping up police surveillance will only serve to further target racialized, poor communities, and that the money allocated to this program could be better spent on food and shelter for local residents in need.
In 2007, it cost $2 million to install police cameras. How much now?!— Zoë Dodd (@ZoeDodd) April 21, 2021
“This camera will capture images of hundreds of poor people going in to the church looking for warmth..for food. These cameras will not feed us, won’t keep us warm..won’t give us housing” Gaetan Heroux 2007 pic.twitter.com/aOTuZ6DNNm
"What cameras will show police and @kristynwongtam - are people struggling to survive, they'll show you poverty, they'll show you abuse and harassment by the police without accountability," Dodd wrote. "They will not be a deterrent in a neighbourhood that is overly criminalized."
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