Volume 93, Issue 96

Thursday, March 30, 2000


Editorial Board 1999-2000

Safety down, but not out

Editorial cartoon

Safety down, but not out

The latest development in London's ongoing saga of downtown tumult and tribulation has found a once fully supported safety initiative shot down before it even began.

A project to implement video surveillance cameras in the downtown core now hangs precariously in the balance, with dollars and cents being the culprit for the project's downfall. With only $200,000 of the $350,000 projected cost available, London's Chief of police denounced the project as pointless. Without 24 hour surveillance (which would have been covered by the remaining $150,000), the initiative may be rendered impotent.

The issue of whether or not surveillance cameras have a place in a city such as London is an entirely different matter, but it stands to reason the City has a few options which should be explored before the project gets scrapped. If city councillors are adamant about the project, there are several things they can do to salvage the initiative.

For starters, the City could simply choose to run on the decreased budget. Since violence, especially in the context of the bar scene, occurs at night, the 24 hour surveillance schedule could be reduced to reflect the times when violence has historically occurred. Besides, having cameras operating during the daytime wouldn't be as necessary based on the amount of people out and about. One alarming feature of the downtown area is its general lack of people after a certain time of the day.

Also, with the diminished budget, a trial run could prove useful. A year's worth of operations could gauge the true value of the cameras, at the same time giving London's Main Street Working Committee an entire year to get London off the couch and back in the saddle. When the downtown core manages to pull itself up by its economic bootstraps, violence will commensurately decrease.

The whole initiative was rooted in a frightening trend of downtown stabbings over the past couple of years. If only as a testament to those victimized by the stabbings, the problem must be promptly addressed in some form. If the City chooses not to implement the cameras, it should at least consider taking the money originally slated for the initiative and channelling it towards the hiring of more patrols for the problem areas.

Ultimately, the City should realize the perceived need for implementation of surveillance cameras is merely a sign of a bigger problem. Violence rearing its ugly head is part and parcel of London's downtown economic woes and without a vibrant core, the city falls prey to a number of ills.

Although cameras are not a long-term solution, London simply needs to take figurative lemons and make lemonade.

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