Volume 92, Issue 91

Friday, March 19, 1999


Editorial Board 1998-99

Big Bro ain't gonna help

Editorial Cartoon

Big Bro ain't gonna help

Big Brother is watching. But will he do anything?

The London committee for public safety has proposed the installation of surveillance cameras in the downtown core in response to the number of stabbings which have taken place recently.

The question is will it really make the downtown safer, or is the proposal just a waste of energy?

Of course, the idea behind this proposal is good in theory. The aim would be to create a safer downtown core, which would then entice businesses to return. Not knowing where these cameras are would make people believe they are being watched wherever they are and thus they would be less likely to commit a crime.

Well, communism worked well in theory too, but it has since fallen by the wayside. The problem with the proposal is it does not offer any real solutions which would truly make downtown safer. An increase in the number of on-duty police officers, whether they be in uniform or not, could make a bigger difference. To see patrol cars passing by randomly would make people feel safer because of actual human presence – and not an electronic eye connected to a monitor miles away.

To see the inevitable failure of surveillance cameras, one has to look only to the fiasco known as photo radar. The Ontario government claimed they were using photo radar in the interest of safety. If this was the case, then why were they parked in the most obvious of places? Why did radio stations routinely give out the locations?

It was hated by most people and rightly so. It did not serve to make Ontario highways any safer and the photo radars felt intrusive.

Another problem with the surveillance cameras is it will make no difference in the event of a crime such as a stabbing. Stabbings which have occurred recently have mostly been a result of aggravation. Surely in that situation the furthest thing from an assailant's mind is the law.

The only way this proposal could work is if every single square inch of London streets were to be monitored 24 hours a day, with police standing by, ready to pounce at the drop of a hat. Of course, that would be an impossibility when one considers a single surveillance camera unit is proposed to cost in the neighbourhood of $15,000 alone. Tack on the cost of paying people to stare at a black and white monitor and the cost to keep the police on alert – practicality seems to have gone out the window.

London has a great downtown core, but it has been buried under years of neglect. What is needed are practical solutions, not just political ones.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999