Anti-crime video surveillance hits streets of Toronto

Toronto is joining the ranks of major cities such as New York, Chicago and Washington that are installing video surveillance to combat crime.

The Toronto police received $2 million in grants from the Ontario Ministry of Community, Safety and Correctional Services to conduct research about the impact on crime of video surveillance cameras in public spaces, says Staff Sergeant Mark Barkley.

In February 2006, the city began running pilots in high-crime areas of the city to get baseline data, he says. Unmanned and clearly marked video cameras were set up to collect data for six months in targeted areas, then taken down and set up in other districts. The project is slated to end in early 2009, when the results will be analyzed and submitted to the Toronto Police Service Board for review, and will be released to the public afterwards.

Recorded images are viewed by police only in the event of a reported incident, says Barkley. “Our focus is on shootings and stabbings, not the guy going into an alley to smoke a joint,” he says. “There’s only so much we can do.” Public reaction to the cameras has been overwhelmingly favourable, he adds.

The environmental factors that contribute to the formation of criminal hot spots will be sussed out in the analysis. “The comparisons must look at the context, as different factors must be considered: the mix of commercial and residential property, width of the streets, height of buildings, and population densities,” he says. “Wherever there are concentrations of violent calls, we’re going to look at the reasons and work with local divisions.”

Surveillance cameras have also been deployed by police departments in Montr

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