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This article was published 6/5/2011 (3385 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg police want to keep cameras rolling on high-crime spots in the city's core despite the pilot project's mixed results.
In a report released Friday, Winnipeg's public administration recommends that Winnipeg Police Service continue monitoring six high-crime locations downtown via 10 closed-circuit television cameras. The cameras were first deployed in January 2009 as part of a $440,000 pilot project to deter crime, collect video evidence and increase public safety.
While the report says the investigative tool helped police collect evidence, it also highlights problems with wireless connections. Also, police officers requested video for only a fraction of violent crimes that occurred within 250 metres of a cameras.
Ten cameras are installed at six high-crime locations in Winnipeg's downtown, and images collected at street level are sent to wireless devices that transmit the data.
The report said one wireless connection has caused problems from the beginning, leading to frequent resets and momentary losses in video. A second wireless problem has plagued a camera installed overlooking Central Park, which only functioned 19 per cent of the time.
All other cameras functioned more than 70 per cent of the time, including five cameras that functioned properly 95 per cent of the time.
During the project, officers requested video for 39 events, and of those, 22 videos were downloaded and have been used as evidence. The report said the value of the video is not possible to assess, since these cases are still before the court.
However, that is a small fraction of requests, according to the report, which shows that 1,843 incidents of violent crime were reported within 250 metres of cameras during the project. It says the data likely include incidents inside businesses and private residences out of sight from the cameras, and that police officers may have been "simply unaware" that cameras were in the area.
Winnipeg Police Service declined to comment on the report on Friday.
"Although statistically significant results were not realized, it cannot be said that the cameras had no effect," the report states. "The fact remains that CCTV is a tool, not a solution."
Winnipeg Police Service has asked the city to approve hiring a technologist to deal with camera maintenance. This year, police will absorb the $129,898 cost of the technologist through its existing budget, but will request for this additional amount on an ongoing basis, starting next year.
Council's protection and community services committee will review the report and the request at a meeting next week.
Committee chairman Coun. Gord Steeves (St. Vital) called the report a "fair and honest" assessment, and said he thinks the project should continue. Steeves said he would also like to explore whether the cameras can be connected to existing cameras in businesses, apartments and bank machines to expand the scope of potential video surveillance.
"It's more encouraging than not," Steeves said, noting he's optimistic based on the number of times evidence has been used in court. "That was the very encouraging part and that was the thing I was most looking for as a measurement tool."
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