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New city policy approves use of security cameras in ‘strategic places’

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
May 24th, 2021

Smile, you are on camera.

City vision, that is. City council has approved the placement of security cameras in specific locations to “ensure the safety and security of city employees, customers and public property.”

After several instances where staff and public safety, and the stewardship of public assets, were threatened, a request was made for the installation of video cameras to help maintain safety and monitor public areas such as the library and public works yard.

“Proper video surveillance, where deemed necessary, is one of the most effective means of helping to keep city facilities and properties operating safely and securely,” noted city corporate officer Sarah Winton in her report to council.

The move, approved unanimously by city council earlier this month during its regular meeting, made a lot of sense, said Coun. Cal Renwick.

It answers some questions some people may have about personal security, with proper placement, he noted.

“The idea is we are not out there (viewing) the general public, we are putting it in strategic places for specific reasons,” Renwick said.

This video surveillance policy provides “detailed direction concerning the context, procedures and protocols within which the city installs and operates surveillance cameras,” Winton explained about the policy.

There are some checks and balances in the endeavour. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC) requires that public bodies be prepared to demonstrate how the surveillance system is lawful, and which provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) “authorizes the collection and use of personal information by a surveillance system.”

FIPPA also limits the purpose for which a public body can use personal information.

Mapping the limits

There are limits in which a public body can collect personal information through video surveillance:

• the information is collected for the purpose of law enforcement, so long as the public body has a law enforcement mandate;

• the information relates directly to and is necessary for a program or activity; and
• the information is collected by observation at a presentation, ceremony, performance, sports meet or similar event.

Source: City of Nelson

Information collected through surveillance cannot be used beyond its original purpose, according to OIPC rules. As a result, the city policy must perform several things:

  1. A privacy impact assessment (PIA) should be undertaken before the system is installed;
  2. the purpose is identified;
  3. defines who has access to the personal information that is collected;
  4. whether the video collected will be monitored or recorded or both;
  5. plans and systems that are in place to ensure the secure storage of data collected as well as how long the data will be retained for before being destroyed;
  6. strategies for notifying people that their private information is being collected through the video surveillance system;
  7. audit systems; and
  8. on-going regular evaluation of the system.

Source: The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner

According to a city staff report, research revealed video surveillance cameras can deter property crime, especially if combined with other methods, including increased lighting and fencing.

Lights, camera, action

For each additional video surveillance system, signage is required which notifies the public of the video surveillance system and includes:

  • the purpose for the collection;
  • the legal authority for the collection; and
  • The business address and phone number of the city for the public to contact with any inquiries.

Source: City of Nelson

Categories: General

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