“This will be a private managed network that will incorporate a combination of police, municipal and private video camera interfaces”

Article and Images by Bill Hornbostel

On Friday, November 11, Ontario’s Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, announced at Venture13 in Cobourg that the Province is giving a grant of $200,000 to the Cobourg Police Service (CPS) for a new closed-circuit television (CCTV) system. The CPS is one of 18 police services in Ontario receiving funding this year.

“This past August, we launched a plan to invest six million dollars over three years to expand closed-circuit television systems across Ontario to help protect communities from criminal threats,” said Jones. “This investment is made available through the Ontario CCTV Grant Program, the latest part of our government’s comprehensive, province-wide Guns and Gangs Violence Reduction Strategy. This newly created CCTV grant will further support police services and the communities they serve to increase public safety.”

Sylvia Jones

“Our frontline police, the heroes rely on to bring criminals to justice, tell us that CCTV technology works and is one of the best tools we have to gain a critical advantage over criminal organizations,” Jones stated. “Gang members are less likely to commit a crime if they are at a greater risk of being caught, and video footage of crimes committed will help with investigations, identify suspects and support prosecution to keep criminals off the street.”

Jones added, “Today’s CCTV systems have also evolved to include features such as advanced night vision capabilities and 360-degree field-of-view. These are important modern-day police capabilities. And it is a priority for our government to ensure Ontario police services can count on these features.”

David Piccini, Member of Provincial Parliament for Northumberland-Peterborough South, spoke about the larger context of the Ontario Government’s crime and policing program. He said, “We’ve launched a guns and gangs strategy in the province of Ontario that’s thoroughly comprehensive, that includes a support unit, we’ve launched funding programs to support major investigations units, we’ve supported community-based policing… enhanced training for correctional staff and staff on the front lines and more supports for survivors of human trafficking.”

David Piccini

“We know that enforcement and prosecution will be more effective when combined with other prevention and intervention initiatives that promote alternatives to gangs and prevent violent offences before [they start], taking a comprehensive approach to community safety,” said Piccini, who also stated that another part of the strategy included a recent grant of $300,000 to Rebound Children and Youth Services to expand their outreach to rural communities.

Dean Pepper, Chair of the Cobourg Police Service Board, said, “We continue to work to our vision of being an adaptive a trusted community partner and protecting the safety, security and quality of life in the town of Coburg through community engagement and innovative partnerships.”

Dean Pepper

“The Ontario CCTV grant goes to support local crime prevention efforts and positively impact the safety of our community here in Cobourg, allowing a local and collaborative response to deter violent crime and hold offenders accountable,” continued Pepper. “The grant will support the Next Generation Community Safety Strategy, our local project, which provides an opportunity to rapidly advance innovative policing solutions, innovative solutions that lead to a safer community, leveraging the best business technology, communications and community partnerships to drive safety and overall wellbeing.”

Paul VandeGraaf, Cobourg’s Police Chief, spoke about the Next Generation Community Safety Strategy, saying it “is a product of our innovative collaboration with Canada’s first Policetech Accelerator; this is a joint venture of the COVID Police Service, and Northumberland Future Community Development Corporation or CFDC with support of FedDev Ontario’s Rural Innovation Initiative.”

“The police accelerator pairs researchers, entrepreneurs and innovators with our accelerator team,” continued VandeGraaf. “The members of the Cobourg police service, in turn, work with the group to develop and validate innovative approaches to twenty-first-century policing solutions. The Cobourg Police Service provides the testbed for these modern technologies right here in Cobourg.”

Paul VandeGraaf

“I’m a firm believer that without the dedicated resourcing and tireless support of the accelerator and the partnership with all of the amazing staff at or Northumberland CFDC we would not be here today, we would not been able to put this grant together this quickly,” said VandeGraaf.

VandeGraaf also spoke more specifically about the CCTV system. “With the use of updated CCTV camera units and advanced technologies, we’ll provide an integrated and scalable mesh video network,” he said. “This will be a private managed network that will incorporate a combination of police, municipal and private video camera interfaces.”

“The use of the embedded analytic tools in the video management system will reduce the time spent on video analysis and increase effectiveness on outcomes,” added VandeGraaf. “This enhanced analytic approach will have measurable increase in our clearance rates and will have a positive impact in preventing further victimization. Simply, this is a scalable and responsive tool to deter violent crime and in aid our investigators when identifying involved persons collecting evidence and facilitating effective court prosecutions.”

The Policetech Accelerator is located at Venture13 on D’Arcy Street. John Henderson, Cobourg’s Mayor, spoke about Venture13. “It is a platform for opportunity for technology and innovation-driven entrepreneurs who are creating the industries of the future. We at the Town of Cobourg are committed to bringing critical resources under one roof to propel innovation entrepreneurship community from the beginning.”

John Henderson

Wendy Curtis, Executive Director of Northumberland CFDC, spoke about what she called an “extreme partnership” with Cobourg Police Service. “It’s extreme, because it’s part of a wonderful momentum that can come along, that can be actually game-changing on several fronts. And not just locally.”

“Our goal is to position the Cobourg Police Services at the forefront of emerging technologies and innovations that can drive operational excellence,” said Curtis. “Essentially, we want to embrace these technologies, so that we are on a pathway to contemporize polices services.”

“All we’re really doing is plugging CPS into a very robust and very abundant, entrepreneurial ecosystem that’s operating across Ontario,” Curtis said.

When asked by media whether this CCTV system was an intrusion of Big Brother (the surveillance system in George Orwell’s 1984), Piccini spoke about recently joining a march to the Cobourg Police Station. “That hit close to home because a member of our community was hit hard, one of their loved ones was attacked in Whitby. It was a brutal, brutal, heinous crime, attacking a woman who’s still clinging to life. Her offender was caught using this technology.”

“Make no mistake when we talk about keeping women safe, when we talk about keeping our community safe,” Piccini said. “It’s working with the frontline officers; it’s utilizing technology to keep our officers safe and keep our community safe.”

Jones added, “CCTV cameras will never replace our police officers, they will never replace the community and citizens’ engagement to ensure that our friends and our neighbours are safe. But it is a tool that has led and will continue to lead to successful apprehensions and ultimately convictions. I believe strongly that when we give our police officers in our communities, those tools will ultimately become safer. And you know, there is lots of technology that protects innocent identification, but this actually saves lives.”

VandeGraaf also addressed the subject. “Does this mean that other people’s rights to privacy will be infringed upon to ensure every vulnerable person has a safe opportunity? Yes, it does. I will ensure that our CCTV program, our integrated mesh network, will meet and exceed all privacy standards as the Privacy Commissioner of Ontario has already outlined. And I will ensure that we use this system with the integrity it is entitled to; this will mean a safer Cobourg in a safer Ontario.”

 

For more information about the Policetech Accelerator, you may visit their website, policetechaccelerator.com.

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