The controversial and potentially costly idea of placing video surveillance cameras on Sackville streets came up for discussion at Tuesday’s town council meeting after a business owner urged councillors to consider installing cameras on all roads leading out of town.
During the public question period, Wendy Alder, co-owner of the Ultramar gas station on Cattail Ridge, said that in the last two months, the RCMP have asked to see surveillance footage from her business three times as they investigated the thefts of a wood splitter and dump trailer as well as damage to a motel room.
“There was also two other cases last December where there was a break-in on our corner as well — well, the Glowing Embers — and again, we used our video system to help to solve that,” Alder told council.
She also mentioned that the owners of a truck stolen on Queen’s Road wanted to see if that truck had driven past the Ultramar, but as it turned out, the stolen vehicle went through Dorchester.
Alder said that in her opinion, the police could gain valuable information to help solve crimes if the town installed cameras on routes leading out of Sackville including both Trans Canada highway exits, Queen’s Road and maybe King Street.
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken, who chaired Tuesday’s council meeting, responded that when the town considered installing surveillance cameras several years ago, it turned out to be quite complicated and expensive.
“There’s lots of legal implications,” Aiken said. “It’s not just putting up a camera. You put one up on your business, that’s your business, but out on a public street, as I recall, there are other laws and considerations that come into it,” the deputy mayor added. “We can certainly take it under consideration.”
Councillors weigh in
Councillor Bill Evans told Alder he was grateful for her question because he knows that police routinely use footage from closed circuit TV cameras (CCTV) installed in private businesses.
He said that while it could be expensive for the town to set up a CCTV system, times have changed since council last considered the issue.
“I was not as enthusiastic six or seven years ago; times have changed, so I don’t think it would be inappropriate for us to look at this again,” Evans said. “I’m really glad that the question [has been raised] to think about this again. Perhaps we should reconsider it.”
Councillor Bruce Phinney agreed with Evans that council should take another look at installing cameras.
“I think it’s something we should seriously look at now despite the cost because it’s something that I truly believe probably needs to be put in place,” Phinney said. “We can research to find out the cost and see exactly just how we could put it in, maybe we can get sponsorship from some of the companies as well.”
Phinney said he recalled that Mount Allison Professor Michael Fox had generated a report concluding that it would be too expensive for the town to install a surveillance system.
The report, submitted to council in 2013, was researched and written by then Mt. A. student Emma Jackson and supervised by Professor Fox.
It warned that aside from legal considerations arising from privacy laws and the Charter of Rights, the estimated cost of installing and maintaining an eight-camera surveillance system in Sackville would come to at least $350,000 in the first year of operation.
The report, along with an opinion piece by Michael Fox published by the Sackville Tribune-Post, also pointed to research showing that surveillance cameras have limited effects in deterring crime.
To read the full report entitled Exploring the Potential for a Public CCTV Monitoring System in Sackville, New Brunswick click here.
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, Deputy Mayor Aiken said town staff would take another look at the pros and cons of installing surveillance cameras on Sackville streets.