August 14, 2014 - 9:39 AM
VERNON - Fear over where Vernon’s alleged serial arsonist will strike next has pushed the topic of video surveillance—or lack thereof—to the forefront of the business sector.
Dan Rogers, Chamber of Commerce general manager, says concern has been growing among members as the number of suspected arsons, now over 20, continues to climb. Early targets included dumpsters, wooden pallets, and recycling bins, but have grown in size to torched boats and vehicles, as well as the Kin Race Track grandstands and hundreds of B.C. Tree Fruit packing bins.
“We decided to seek out someone with the RCMP who could provide us with some information into the investigation and tell us anything businesses could do to not only help in the investigation but to be proactive in deterring criminal activity in general,” Rogers says.
Businesses met with a corporal from the Vernon RCMP detachment who’s been working on the arson case, and Rogers says his main point was the lack of video surveillance in the community. Visible surveillance systems discourage criminal activity, help police identify suspects and provide key evidence during prosecution.
“We know a number of other cities have been more aggressive in the placement of video cameras and seen positive outcomes in deterring crime and assisting in investigations,” Rogers says, noting Kelowna as an example. “We heard from the RCMP that the evidence is critical, but it has to be good quality video.”
Local government’s role in community safety and the installation of video surveillance may be explored in the upcoming municipal election race. The chamber is currently gauging interest on the topic from its members, and if deemed a priority, will quiz candidates on the issue.
“The technology is really affordable and high quality. We believe it deserves another look by local governments and by the city,” Rogers says. “We may advocate for the placement of cameras in high traffic areas.”
The chamber is encouraging businesses that have video surveillance in and around their storefronts to notify police; their cameras may pick up useful footage in the surrounding environment.
“That was one of the outcomes of the discussion, there might be value in us creating a network with the community and RCMP so they’re not just knocking on doors, they know where to look for the good quality videos,” Rogers says.
RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says good quality video footage can make a big difference in an investigation.
“The cost of video surveillance has come down a long way, and there are better cameras with clearer images,” Molendyk says.
Unfortunately, not every business is using the newest technology or monitoring the device to ensure it’s working properly.
“In a couple cases, we were led to believe there was video surveillance in an area only to find out it was inadequate to cover the business, or wasn’t working, or was limited in quality,” Molendyk says. “We can’t dictate to business but we can encourage them to set up better video equipment.”
Nowadays, equipment entails high-definition image quality and Apps that sync the surveillance to your cell phone. Perry Pecker, with Spinners Sound Centre in Vernon, says you can live like James Bond.
“There have been extraordinary, monumental jumps in technology,” Pecker says.
As with anything, you get what you pay for and Pecker has some advice on what to look for.
“You want a camera system that will be good at night—having one that’s not is pretty much useless,” he says. “People don’t usually rob you at noon.”
You want multiple cameras—weather and heat proof—to provide coverage over your entire home or business and you need multiple backups for the footage.
He remembers one business that approached them after being robbed. They had a video camera, but the footage was too blurry to see anything.
“They know humanoids were in the yard doing something bad to their stuff. It didn’t do anything to prevent them, or to catch them,” he says.
He says you want your surveillance system to be visible to the perpetrator, that’s what acts as deterrence.
“Your objective is to make it as difficult as humanely possible for them and, as bad as it sounds, let them go somewhere else, because they’re going to go somewhere,” Pecker says.
A lot of people have been coming through the doors of Spinner Sound Centre recently, and the timing could have something to do with the rash of suspicious fires putting residents on edge.
“I don’t know if it’s because of this arsonist situation; I think it ties in with a lot of things. A lot of people in general are concerned with safety. The whole point of having surveillance is, fundamentally, to prevent people from doing harm to you, your family and your possessions. Emotionally, the reality is it makes you feel more secure; it gives you concrete comfort.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014