Is the TTC's plan to install an eye-popping 12,000 security cameras in buses, streetcars and subway stations "unnecessary and disproportionate"? UK-based Privacy International says it is, filing a complaint with the Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner's office last week. The cash-strapped TTC could have found better ways to make us feel safer without spending $18 million. Here are eight reasons why we don't like this security feast.
1 It's overkill. L.A.'s transit system, comparable in size to ours, has 4,000 cameras. Even New York's, which has 468 subways stations compared to our 69, and 4,518 buses compared to our 1,543, has only 9,700 cameras. When all is said and done, we'll have as many cameras as the security-obsessed London transit system.
2 The fact that most of the cameras, in excess of 10,000, will be monitoring subway stations, in other words, huge swaths of public space. Only 1,750 are being placed on streetcars and buses, after a spike in passenger assaults on drivers led to a one-day wildcat strike last year.
3 TTC chair Adam Giambrone makes it sound like a good thing that "everyone who enters the TTC legally or illegally will be photographed."
4 The threat of a terrorist attack is being used as a rationale. Cameras, as numerous studies have pointed out, do little to act as a crime deterrent.
5 Cameras have little impact when it comes to catching criminals, for that matter. In the UK, of five of the municipalities with the most cameras, four rank below the national average in terms of cases solved.
6 The Tories made the TTC do it. Most of the money is coming from the feds' Transit-Secure program.
7 The cameras the TTC is installing will have audio and live video capability so TTC staff or police can spy on riders in real time. Their purchase was approved without broad public discussion or support.
8 Experience elsewhere shows these systems are fraught with technical difficulties - up to half of the images collected (and sometimes more) are not clear enough to use as evidence. In fact, the TTC cancelled purchase of an earlier system after it was revealed to be "subpar."
Compiled by NOW staff with research by PAUL TEREFENKOnews@nowtoronto.com