Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

CCTV coming to a bus in your neighbourhood

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Straight Talk By Carlito Pablo

TransLink has approved a budget of almost $4 million to install “security cameras and video recording equipment” on the region’s bus fleet.

Andrew Pask , coordinator of the Vancouver Public Space Network , to1l0d the Straight that he’s concerned about the installation of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras on buses. “People should be able to use public spaces without having to be recorded, without having their movement tracked, their conversations taped, their actions videoed,” he said. “People should have that right. When you start infringing on it, you start inching ever closer to a police state.”

People should also have the right to be able to travel in safety at any time of day in any part of the city by public transport without the fear of being assaulted, or the victim of “steaming”, or witnessing an attack on a driver. Far too many dangerous incidents still occur despite the use of radio to summon assistance, and the presence of additional staff on key routes in bad areas late at night. Bus drivers should not be in fear of their personal safety while at work.

No one is going to be tracked or have their conversations recorded. There is going to be an immense amount of truly dull uneventful video, but hopefully when it is needed for evidence later it will be availble and of reasonable quality. Currently CCTV is in use on SkyTrain. The tape is rewound every hour, automatically, because of the limitations of old fashioned storage methods, so often key evidence is inadvertently wiped.

I think Mr Pask is being paranoid. But I also think that enough incidents have happened that it is overdue that the system take note and respond. Taxi drivers were being assaulted at work until the taxi companies installed cameras. The assaults stopped. Just as bait cars have cut auto theft.

If you don’t want to be recorded, then you don’t have to use the system. The people who do use the system, and who work on it, will be safer once the cameras are installed. You have no expectation of privacy on public transport, and the only people who benefit from not being recorded are those with something to hide. On the bus or the SkyTrain you are in a public place and being observed by other passengers. And many of them these days are carrying cell phones, cameras and other equipment capable of surveillance use. You may already be being followed and recorded and you have no idea who is doing it. And I am not talking about spy satellites either.

The way to prevent a police state is to have adequate oversight of the police by our elected representatives, and an investigation system whereby the police are subject to investigation by an independent, non-police authority.

Written by Stephen Rees

July 28, 2007 at 8:12 pm

Posted in criminality, transit

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