After years of complaints around vandalism, public urination and excessive noise around Acadia University, the Town of Wolfville believes it has a solution.
A two-year pilot project has been proposed by council to install 11 street cameras in the downtown core, in an effort to deter crime and curb future problems.
Mayor Wendy Donovan says vandalism is not only expensive, it’s a public safety issue.
“In the last year we’ve had $12,000 of street signs that have been removed and have to be replaced,” she tells Global News.
“If any ambulance is trying to find somebody on Bay Street and they do not know where Bay Street is, then that street sign being down is time lost in an ambulance trying to get to someone.”
RCMP seem to be on board with the idea, too, calling it a potentially useful tool for evidence purposes.
Const. Jeff Wilson, a school safety resource and public information officer for Kings District RCMP, says police often respond to calls “within a couple kilometre radius” of the university
“You have some areas of the calendar year which are predictably festive. And then we also have, you know, on a typical weekend, the King’s District RCMP would respond to many complaints like loud music, gathering sizes, large parties, that type of thing, which you seem to expect with the youth in this small town,” he says.
“Keeping in mind safer communities — which is what the RCMP and Kings District are really in the business of doing — we certainly support the Town of Wolfville taking ownership of their community and any tools that can be used as far as evidence for investigation. We can certainly take a look at them.”
The town recently launched a special campaign dubbed “Good Neighbours Make Great Neighbourhoods Pilot.” Last summer and fall, signs were displayed around the campus neighbourhood to lay out the “community expectations.”
“This crime prevention through environmental design pilot was not successful and the property damage and calls for enforcement have continued. The targeted video camera pilot project is the Town’s response to this on-going issue,” the town explains on its website.
However, Acadia Students’ Union President Georgia Saleski says street cameras are a violation of privacy and she believes there should be student consultation where alternative options are discussed.
“Students are on the streets because they don’t have other safe spaces to go,” she says.
“And in capturing this footage of them, we’re not trying to repair that and solve that problem and give them those safe spaces but in fact we are trying to catch them and punish them for the fact that they don’t have anywhere to go.”
First-year student Julia Shirokov questions if the cameras will even work as intended. She points out that although there are cameras in the university’s residences, they haven’t deterred vandalism.
“I think the cameras, though they may help enforce a little bit, may still not do exactly what the city wants it to be completely rid of,” she says.
Some town residents actually agree with the students, and don’t know if cameras are the answer.
“I get that citizens are concerned and the universities concerned,” says resident Lea Isnor.
“However, to take away some potential freedoms of a larger group of people for what a smaller group of people are potentially doing isn’t necessarily always the answer.”
No cameras have been installed yet, and the pilot project will be discussed at Committee of the Whole on May 3 and at Town Council on May 17.
The proposed locations of the cameras are;
- 6 Bay Street
- 9 Fairfield Street
- 26 Gaspereau Avenue
- 10 Harbourside Drive
- 54 & 24 Highland Avenue
- 17 Hillside Avenue
- 434 Main Street
- 18 & 4 Prospect Street
- 16 Summer Street