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The City of Cambridge has installed 10 surveillance cameras in Galt, part of an effort Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig is to keep the downtown area safe.

“Overall it’s really to give a stamp of approval that in fact this is a safe place to be, and we are doing our best as a municipal council to make it that way,” Craig said.

The cameras are not yet active and first have to be marked with signage and approved by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.

Phase I of the project, which cost $200,000, includes the purchase of the wireless cameras and purchase and installation of servers in City Hall.

“We are putting signs up that say that video monitoring is taking place, and it’s really to discourage any kind of illegal activity,” said Craig.

City staffers consulted with the downtown Cambridge BIA and the Waterloo Regional Police Services to identify locations they thought surveillance cameras would be helpful.

“I went out personally with some city staff, and we did a walk around those areas to see where would benefit,” said Trevor McWilliams, the business liaison officer for the City of Cambridge.

‘Always going to be a little bit controversial’

Of the 10 cameras, four were mounted on regional poles and require a licensing agreement with the Regional Municipality of Waterloo.

Six cameras were installed in parking lots, three at intersections on Main Street, and one is on Water Street overlooking a new pedestrian bridge.

Graham Braun, Chair of the downtown Cambridge BIA and co-owner of Monigram Coffee Roasters in Galt, hopes the cameras will act as a deterrent to petty crime, car break-ins and damage to local businesses.

“I think that the installation of this kind of camera system is always going to be a little bit controversial. That said, I think that the net outcome is a positive one for the downtown in that it can lend a sense of security and assist with any investigations that the police might have if incidents do occur, although they are rare,” said Braun.

The cameras will record round-the-clock, but McWilliams said, there will not be a live-viewing system.

“We just don’t have the money or staff to do that, and it is not there for live viewing,” he said.

Inspector Mike Haffner of the Waterloo Regional Police Services said they will not conduct live monitoring due to “stringent legislative and privacy considerations.”

City eyes policy for urgent access to footage

In severe or urgent situations when there isn’t time to get permission from council or judicial authorization, Haffner hopes police services would have access to the cameras.

“The examples I would provide are a child abduction or active shooter situation,” said Haffner. “This process is currently being developed with city representatives.”

Footage will be stored on the servers for 30 days before being deleted. The city’s technology services division will manage the surveillance system as well as data retention and destruction.

The Deputy Clerk in the city’s Clerk’s Division will log and review any requests from the police for information captured by the cameras, McWilliams said.

“This is a tool for the police, and it is to enhance public safety. That’s why we were doing it from the very first,” said McWilliams.

Phase II of the installation will take place later this year after transmissions from the current cameras have been tested.

The city is still investigating the number of cameras required and best locations for the second instalment.

One location under consideration is along the Grand River Trail between the wooden footbridge down to the Mill parking lot.