CCTV for Lindsay downtown receives conditional municipal support

By Kirk Winter

According to a recent survey undertaken by the LDBIA, about 44 per cent of respondents said they have safety concerns in the downtown, and an overwhelming 73 per cent said that safety in the downtown core has changed for the worse over the last two years. Photo: Sienna Frost.

Kawartha Lakes council has conditionally approved a request from the Lindsay Downtown Business Improvement Association (LDBIA) in the amount of $40,000 for the installation of a closed-circuit camera system to enhance public safety in the downtown core.

The LDBIA has approximately 10 weeks to have a private consultant produce a Privacy Impact Assessment and hold a public meeting that will solicit opinions from a wide range of stakeholder groups regarding the impacts, both positive and negative, that the cameras might have. If the LDBIA can meet these deadlines and have a report to council by late Feb. 2024, it is expected that the money, currently being held in abeyance will be released to the LDBIA for the purchase and installation of more than 50 CCTVs across the heritage downtown core.

President of the LDBIA, Wesley Found, has been a prime mover behind this project from the beginning. Found, owner of the Kent Place Business and Professional Centre, is a fourth-generation downtown business person whose property is already equipped with CCTV. Those cameras have helped police solve cases and protect his business against frivolous liability claims.

Found has worked closely with Kawartha Lakes Police Service chief Mark Mitchell who was instrumental in getting the LDBIA the first $30,000 grant that made the project potentially viable.

“The police are the only ones who could have applied for the first grant,” Found said. “I had no idea the mountain of paperwork that would be involved in this project.”

Even with council’s approval the group still needs to hold meetings about the impact on privacy. But the police grant disappears if it isn’t spent by March of 2024.

In a recent survey done by the LDBIA, posted on the city’s Jump In platform, numbers indicate that both downtown merchants and their customers are very concerned about safety in the Lindsay downtown core, and that support for CCTVs is strong.

Sixty-six downtown merchants, representing over half of the LDBIA’s membership, responded to the survey. About 50 per cent said that customers have expressed concerns about their personal safety in the downtown core. Another 54 per cent of merchants themselves believe that conditions over the last two years in the downtown have changed for the worse. When merchants were asked directly if they would feel safer with cameras, support was almost universal, with over 90 per cent in favour of the CCTV system.

When shoppers were asked to share their opinions regarding safety in the downtown core, close to 400 individuals filled out the survey. About 44 per cent said they have safety concerns in the downtown, and an overwhelming 73 per cent said that safety in the downtown core has changed for the worse over the last two years. And 67 per cent said they would feel safer if the LDBIA installed cameras in downtown Lindsay.

Found said the privacy consultations could cost as much as $20,000. He is hopeful that close cooperation with the Peterborough Police Services, who operates 160 cameras installed in the downtown and public spaces in that city, will help speed up the process so Found’s group can access both offers of public money while it is available.

“The LDBIA will house the technology and manage it. We will be the owner of the equipment and we will be responsible for the maintenance of the network,” Found said. “We want 50-55 cameras from Victoria Street to Lindsay Street with peripheral views down all the side streets. They will be night vision capable and all are going to be live. The cameras can hold data for up to 60 days.”

Found made it clear that the cameras will not be actively monitored by the KLPS or the LDBIA, but they will be reviewed on a “as requested basis.”

“The LDBIA will facilitate any requests for information (from the cameras) in accordance with all applicable laws of governance,” Found said. “The police will need to ask the BIA for footage.”

When asked what the LDBIA hopes to gain by installing cameras, Found admitted that CCTV generally does not deter crime “but they mitigate the investigations. When incidents do occur, you can dig deeper. It is a great investigative tool. We have been told that the Peterborough Police have found that CCTV has sped up the closing of criminal cases of all kinds. We want people to feel safe in our downtown.”

Kawartha Lakes councillors Charlie McDonald and Eric Smeaton, who share responsibility for the Lindsay downtown, are firmly behind the project. McDonald, a former LDBIA president himself, advocated strongly for installation of the cameras, and said that everyone involved would continue to work hard on this initiative, with “more information coming in the new year.”

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