The Winnipeg Police Service recently announced that it would be implementing a Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) Pilot Project in Downtown Winnipeg.
The cost of the project in terms of additional expenditures over and above the existing police budget was set at $460,000.00. That may not seem like a lot of money when considered in the context of the Services’ overall budget. To put a human face on it, though, it would translate into putting 4 additional officers on the street for a year.
One would think that the Police Service and the City would not initiate this type of expenditure unless they were fairly confident that the Pilot Project would deliver the predicted results. The desired outcomes as listed in the Services’ October 2008 report to Standing Policy Committee on Protection and Community Services include: reduce victimization; create a safer environment; and establish a tool for investigation. The report goes on to describe specific objectives and the criteria that will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the pilot project.
One of the interesting features of this report is the total lack of enthusiasm the Police Service expresses for this project. This is reflected in phrases such as “the Winnipeg Police Services endorses the opportunity to apply technology…” and “The Winnipeg Police Service acknowledges the potential for adding video surveillance technology as part of an integrated public safety strategy…” The level of interest and support is underwhelming. What accounts for this lack of enthusiasm?
Perhaps it is an inability to find definitive support or evidence that CCTV actually will deliver on its stated objectives. The October report implies that the Services examined at least some of the many studies that have been done on this subject when it says “Although some studies state that cameras can make a difference in crime rates, it is difficult to determine if there is in reality a single factor that can be attributed as the deterrent effect”. The studies looked at aren’t cited, nor is there any mention of studies that suggest cameras have a limited deterrent effect. One might anticipate a greater degree of due diligence when the city is looking at spending close to half a million dollars.
Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm exhibited by the Police Service, and the lack of evidence put forward to support the use of cameras, the project gained approval from Standing Committee, Executive Policy Committee as well as Council, and is being implemented.
Is this an example of funding and implementing the pet project of a councilor or perhaps the mayor? The original motion directing the Police Service to “investigate the feasibility of developing a pilot project” was moved by councilor Fielding and seconded by the Mayor. That may explain the lack luster response from the Police Service.
Is this a vanity project? Does someone want to be able to say ‘I brought CCTV to Winnipeg’?
If indeed this is a vanity project and the City is looking for other technology based approaches that could be implemented, I have a suggestion: Taser International has a neat little device that attaches to the Tasers carried by members of the Police Service. It’s called the Taser Cam. You guessed it, the camera activates every time the Taser is deployed. This technology might serve equally well in making the citizens of Winnipeg feel safer, and it would have the added benefit of protecting officers from accusations of Taser misuse. I think in this case a study might even show that there is evidence to support such expenditure of public monies.