To further its commitment to fighting guns and gangs in the province, the Ontario government is providing an additional $1 million to help an additional nine police services fund projects to replace outdated equipment, enhance current technology, and expand closed-circuit televisions (“CCTV”) camera coverage in areas where gun and gang violence and correlated crimes such as drug trafficking and human trafficking are most prevalent.
Ontario CCTV Grant Program
Currently, funding is being provided through the Ontario CCTV Grant program, which supports the expansion of CCTV systems in municipalities across the province, as part of Ontario’s guns, gangs and violence reduction strategy.
Projects funded through the grant are intended to help deter criminal activity and improve public safety as well as build on a recent provincial investment of $75.1 million to support initiatives including a multi-jurisdictional gun and gang specialized prosecution unit and the Office of Illicit Drug Intelligence. To date, approximately $187 million has been invested to combat guns and gangs in Ontario.
As Solicitor General Sylvia Jones stated:
CCTV surveillance cameras are an essential tool in helping police detect, prevent and deter criminal activity and keep Ontarians safe. Tackling gun and gang violence requires all levels of government to work together. Ontario has stepped up to do its part, and we are pleased to support these locally-led initiatives to help stamp out violence in communities across the province.
Specifically, the grant supports police services and communities in increasing public safety. It is available to all municipal and First Nations police services as well as the Ontario Provincial Police. The grant program, launched in August 2020, represents an investment of $6 million over three fiscal years (2020-21 to 2022-23).
For 2021-2022, over $1 million has been allocated across 9 police services. Successful recipients are required to pay a minimum of 50% of the total project costs, up to a maximum of $200,000. All municipal and First Nations police services, as well as the Ontario Provincial Police, are eligible to apply for funding.
The 9 police services receiving funding include the following:
Police Service and Program Name
Barrie Police Service
The Barrie Police Service will be expanding the use of CCTV technology across the city and strengthen its ability to download high-definition footage to better identify suspects, vehicles as well as suspects timelines and whereabouts.
Durham Regional Police Service
Overt Community Camera Project
Overt public cameras are video cameras which are placed in a way that is noticeable to the public. The Durham Regional Police Service is looking to create partnerships with its municipal community partners to support the placement of additional overt public cameras in public spheres.
Gananoque Police Service
Will establish a CCTV presence across the city to gain intelligence on the movement of suspects in and out of town.
Niagara Regional Police Service
Guns and Gang Violence Reduction Strategy
Will help identify individuals involved in illicit gang activity, gather their license plate number and bring them to justice.
Nishnabi Aski Police Service Project Vision
OPP Fort Frances Downton
Core Video Surveillance Upgrade
Will replace the existing, standalone video surveillance cameras with a centralized system, expand video surveillance capacity throughout Fort Frances’s downtown core, and make surveillance files easily available and accessible to the OPP.
Toronto Police Service
Increasing CCTV Capacity
Will replace 12 CCTV systems and ensure there will be appropriate server capacity to support those systems to provide additional investigative tools, improve incident management capabilities, including situational intelligence and visualization.
Windsor Police Service
City of Windsor Traffic Camera Project
Will replace its camera management system and storage to provide a modern digital traffic camera network. Funding will be used to add 30 to 40 new digital cameras to the network in 2021 and replace 15 to 20 failing analog cameras with new digital cameras.
These police services will be utilizing CCTV technology to improve their investigative tools with high-quality video images. As Windsor Police Chief Pamela Minuzo stated:
The technology of the new cameras will provide high-quality video captures which, in turn, will result in access to an increased amount of valuable video evidence for our investigators. We are confident that this technology will have a positive impact on public safety and are grateful for the province’s ongoing commitment to guns, gangs and violence reduction.
Evidentiary Issues Relating to the Use of CCTV Footage
While CCTV footage may be a cost-effective strategy for police forces, are they a valid source of evidence in court? There may be evidentiary issues arising out of the use of CCTV footage. For example, there may be discrepancies between eye-witness reports and CCTV footage as well as the issue of validating that the digital evidence was secure and hasn’t been altered. The consistency of such footage between police forces may also be an issue in their use in a court.
Privacy Issues Relating to the Use of CCTV Footage
In addition to evidentiary issues, there are privacy issues that may arise with the use of such widespread videotaping. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that some kinds of visual recordings in public places are expected, but will consider whether a person could reasonably expect privacy in a particular situation. Whether a person can reasonably expect privacy, however, is not determined simply on the basis of whether there was a risk that the person would be observed or recorded. As CCTV becomes more widely used, the less citizens may be seen to have a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces and the more CCTV evidence may be used.
Contact Hicks Adams in Toronto to Defend Against Guns & Gangs Charges
The increased use of CCTV by police creates unique evidentiary issues that require experienced counsel. At Hicks Adams LLP, our seasoned team of criminal defence lawyers have particular expertise in charges relating to guns and gangs and understand the serious consequences for conviction on such charges. Our team is ready to defend you. To discuss your case, call us at 416-975-1700 or contact us online to schedule a confidential consultation.