Montreal police plan to install nine more security cameras across the city in response to an increase in violent crime, but community groups are questioning whether the technology works to deter crime or is a waste of money.
With the addition of the nine cameras – costing up to $11,000 each – police have announced plans to operate a surveillance network of 42 cameras in the city by the end of the year. City police declined to be interviewed on the network, referring all questions to their website, which says the camera locations were chosen “following an analysis” of violent crime in the city.
The province says violent crime, particularly gun-related crime, has increased in Montreal since 2016. But University of Montreal criminology professor Rémi Boivin says he doesn’t know how police could justify the addition of surveillance cameras across the city.
“If the goal is to prevent crime, I would say, one, it doesn’t work, and two, (the police) already know that,” Boivin said in an interview Monday.
He was part of a research project that analyzed the first set of public surveillance cameras installed by police in Montreal in 2010, and he said the results indicated that the cameras’ preventive effects on violent crime were not “inconclusive”.
“Crimes against someone are easily mobile,” he said in an interview Monday. “If they don’t happen in a park where there is a camera, will they happen in the next one where there is no surveillance?”
Cameras will be installed in four city parks and other locations, including Cabot Square downtown, a common gathering place for Indigenous people experiencing homelessness.
On its website, the police say they have informed “certain partner organizations” of the project to install the cameras. But Ousseynou Ndiaye, general manager of a community group in the Montreal-North borough, says he was never consulted.
“We don’t want the problem of violent crime to be solved by installing more security cameras everywhere,” Ndiaye, of the group Un itinerary pour tous, said in an interview on Monday.
“The problem is deeper than that. To think you can solve it with cameras is completely off the mark.”
However, he is not totally opposed to surveillance cameras. Last fall, his group worked with police to install cameras in the borough. “Everyone was in favor of it,” he said.
But this time, Ndiaye said the police had not consulted, adding that he feared the surveillance network was becoming abusive.
“I would have liked to analyze the cameras that are already there,” Ndiaye said. “Have they worked to prevent crime… How much have we invested in the community to support vulnerable people? How much did we pay for these cameras?
Police in other Canadian cities, including Toronto, are also adding surveillance cameras. Last summer, Ontario announced a total of $6 million over three years for police forces to purchase more security cameras. Toronto police already have more than 30 cameras and plans to expand the network to 74 by 2028, a police spokesperson said Monday.
The Quebec government has invested tens of millions of dollars in recent months to fight violent crime, particularly in the Montreal area. Public Safety Minister Geneviève Guilbault said the number of attempted murders by firearm in the Montreal area quadrupled between 2016 and 2020. There were 25 homicides in Montreal in 2020 and 37 in 2021.
It was the murders of young people in the Montreal area that prompted the authorities to act.
In February, Lucas Gaudet, a 16-year-old high school student, was fatally stabbed following an altercation outside a high school in the West Island of Montreal. In January, 17-year-old Amir Benayad was shot dead in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough in Montreal’s first homicide of 2022.
In 2021, 20-year-old Hani Ouahdi was shot dead in a car in the eastern Anjou district of the city in December. In mid-November, 16-year-old Thomas Trudel was shot dead in the St-Michel borough as he was walking back from a park. Jannai Dopwell-Bailey, 16, died after being stabbed outside her school last October. And in February of the same year, Meriem Boundaoui, 15, was killed in a drive-by shooting in the St-Léonard borough.
Fo Niemi, executive director of the Montreal-based civil rights group Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, says he is concerned that police are pouring money into surveillance technology instead of community-based crime prevention programs. crime.
“There is a need for a public discussion, if this is going to be a growing trend,” Niemi said in an interview on Monday.
“There is a bit of a disconnect in terms of information for the public. This is something the city and police should consider, as transparency is key to gaining and maintaining community trust and cooperation.”
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on March 8, 2022.