Privacy groups sound alarm as B.C. community offers incentives for security cameras

Community of Parksville launches controversial idea to try to curb crime
WATCH: The mayor of Parksville says there has been a lot of interest in an new rebate program for surveillance cameras. But as Kylie Stanton reports, it could put them on a collision course with civil liberties.

A city program on Vancouver Island that offers rebates for security cameras in an effort to reduce crime is raising eyebrows among privacy advocates.

The City of Parksville is offering a one-time rebate of up to $100 for residents and business owners who wish to install cameras on their property.

All that’s needed is an application form and a receipt for the camera’s purchase and installation. Cameras are only eligible if they were purchased on or after July 2.

READ MORE: Kelowna’s surveillance cameras draw rebuke from privacy commissioner

The program is intended to curb crime in the community, with the hopes that those security cameras can be used to find culprits behind everything from vandalism to robberies, the city said.

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“Public safety is a priority for council and it is believed the addition of security cameras to businesses and residences will support law enforcement, deter criminal activity and contribute to the overall safety and security in the community,” the program’s application form reads.

City council has allocated $2,500 for the program this year, with plans to double that fund to $5,000 for 2020.

WATCH: (Aired Nov. 22, 2016) Using private security cameras to stop crime in Surrey

Using private security cameras to stop crime in Surrey
Using private security cameras to stop crime in Surrey

But the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (BCFIPA) said public education and consultation is needed to prevent Parksville from becoming a city where every corner is covered by cameras.

“It opens it up to make it easy for everyone to just put cameras in their backyard and it becomes an acceptable practice,” Sara Neuert, the association’s executive director said.

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“At some point in time people are going to say, ‘What happened to the days I could just walk down the street without being filmed?'”

READ MORE: BC Hydro not commenting on its fleet of mobile security cameras

The city was unable to make someone available to address those privacy concerns on Friday.

It did say the program has received “significant interest,” but staff said they have yet to see a formal application.