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Closed circuit cameras coming to Vancouver

Four B.C. cities, including Vancouver and Surrey, will share in $1 million in funding for new CCTV monitoring technology, the provincial government announced Friday. The CCTV, or closed circuit television, equipment is expected to be deployed in "high-crime areas."

"Vancouver, Surrey, Kelowna and Williams Lake each presented strong cases for how and where CCTV can help to significantly reduce violent and nuisance crimes -- both in high-crime locations and in special-event situations," B.C. Solicitor General John van Dongen was quoted as saying in a press release. "We're providing this funding because we believe people have the right to feel safe wherever they go in these cities."

Vancouver's share, $400,000, is expected to go towards what's being called "a re-deployable CCTV unit for special events and emergencies." The move comes amidst ongoing privacy concerns from civil liberties critics, who say the value of CCTV in actually reducing crime has yet to be proven.

In late March, Vancouver's city hall officially requested some $2.6 million in funds for CCTV from the province and the RCMP unit in charge of security during the 2010 Olympics. Michael Vonn, policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says previous Olympic cities have brought in temporary cameras only to see them made permanent after the games.

"It's the standard drill with the Olympics," Vonn told 24 hours in March. "We have no reason to believe these will not be left as a legacy."

However, city officials insist they have no intention of making use of the equipment permanent.

"Right now, it's fully intended they would be temporary installations for the games," Kevin Wallinger, the city's director in the office of emergency management, said at the time. V2010-ISU, the RCMP unit, is recommending cameras be deployed along the Granville entertainment district, at the cruise ship terminal area and at two city-operated 'Live Sites' that will host large crowds during the games. It's expected CCTV units will be tested out during this summer's yearly Celebration of Lights fireworks events, which draws huge crowds to Downtown Vancouver.

CCTV will also be coming to TransLink buses by the end of the year. Some 240 trolley buses in TransLink's fleet will be outfitted with five or seven cameras each, depending on size, starting in May.

Irwin Loy reports for 24 Hours Vancouver.

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