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Prescott, Ont. to install CCTV cameras with goal of deterring crime

Usually found in big cities, a small town south of Ottawa along the St. Lawrence River is set to install surveillance cameras in order to prevent crime.

The town of Prescott says closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras will be installed around town by the end of March 2024.

"Our violent crime rates are higher than our neighboring communities," says Prescott mayor Gauri Shankar.

"So what we want to do is, working with the OPP, to establish good locations for these cameras."

Shankar says due to Prescott's location, and the heavy through traffic the town sees, the community has become susceptible to a higher per capita crime rate than surrounding municipalities.

"[The crimes] range from break and enters to assaults. Nothing serious like gang violence or murders, but we just want to deter any future crimes."

Where the cameras will be installed has yet to be determined.

Some members of the community support the idea.

"I feel comfortable with it," said local Lauren Prosper. "It's probably going to help the police do their jobs a little bit easier."

"It could stop some illegal activity, even as far as for my trash on the street, which is really simple," said long time resident Larry Sauve. "But up as high as robbing a bank."

"If I'm not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to worry about," added Sauve.

But others say they have not seen the amount of crime to justify the installation of 24/7 surveillance cameras.

"I don't think I really need the extra eyes on my business," said Laci Temple, owner of Laurel & Lace Flower Shop on Prescott's main strip.

"I think it would be kind of an invasion of privacy, to be honest. And for what I've experienced here I can't speak to investing any money in a problem that I haven't personally seen."

The cost to install the cameras will be $100,000, split evenly between the town and the province.

Ontario provided $50,000 to the town as part of a specific CCTV camera grant meant to combat gun and gang violence, drug activity, and human trafficking.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says round the clock surveillance such as this is an invasion of privacy to the public.

"[Footage] can be taken out of context," explains Daniel Konikoff, the CCLA's interim director of privacy, technology, and surveillance.

"It could collect far more information than is actually needed. And again, it can be combined with a host of other technologies such as facial recognition."

Konikoff says that while the cameras may catch the culprits of crimes, it will not stop them from happening.

"CCTV has been shown to not really impact violent crime. It might impact something like a burglary or property crime, for example, but it doesn't really get to the root causes of gun and gang violence."

Shankar says despite it being 2023 - an age where cameras are now everywhere - the town will ensure the privacy of its residents and not share the recorded images.

"I think the general public wants to be safe and that's our intention and our only intention." Top Stories


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