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More cameras will be watching you in Kelowna

January 11, 2019 - 3:30 PM

KELOWNA - City staff are finding new places to put surveillance cameras in Kelowna but can’t get a clear answer from the Privacy Commissioner on whether they’re running them properly.

It’s costing $30,000 for 14 more security cameras to add to the 368 the City of Kelowna already operates.

While some are replacing old cameras, others will go to new locations, such as Kelowna Community Theatre.

“We just noticed a whole wad of activity around the theatre, especially around the back side, particularly after the RCMP detachment moved,” Lance Kayfish, the city’s Risk Manager told “There were all sorts of biohazards that our staff were not pleased with cleaning up. By placing a camera there and having it monitored, our security companies can monitor it and see somebody's conducting suspicious activity or doing their bathroom business. Then they can dispatch somebody to make sure they know that’s not appropriate behaviour.”

It also provides improved safety for the security guards who are on camera when they approach people so help can be quickly dispatched if they need back-up.

Last year, a concern was raised by the Privacy Commissioner about the use and monitoring of cameras but there has been nothing from that body to say whether these cameras are being used legally.

“What got sent out was something on social media, if memory serves me,” Kelowna City Clerk Stephen Fleming told “I believe that got sent from the outgoing acting commissioner. It was kind of unusual. It was sent out via Twitter, I think, rather than their more usual forms of communication.”

That sparked a back and forth conversation with the Privacy Commissioner’s office but nothing firm about whether the city was in compliance, Fleming sad.

“Generally speaking, they don’t go to a public body and say, 'yes you’re compliant or no, you’re not compliant,'” Fleming said. “The last thing they communicated with me, and they confirmed it in December, was that they’re publishing some updated guidelines.”

The Privacy Commissioner’s office confirmed by email that new guidelines are being drafted but would only say they will be completed early this year. They would not comment on any discussions with the city.

“We can’t comment on whether Kelowna is compliant, as we may get a complaint about this before our office and cannot prejudge,” Jane Zatylny, Senior Communications Officer for the Privacy Commissioner, said in an email. “Along those lines, if someone is concerned about how any public body is collecting, using, or disclosing their personal information, they can contact our office to make a complaint.”

The use of surveillance cameras is not the issue, Kayfish said. It’s the monitoring and recording of the images that may be of some concern.

Of the city’s 368 cameras, more than 200 are in the three downtown parkades and, of those cameras that are monitored, about 90 per cent are in parkades, Kayfish said. There are others in recreation centres and parks.

“The Privacy Commissioner’s office doesn’t come back to say this is in compliance,” he said. “They say, we’ll take that on advisement, and require you to do things or not. To this point, they’re satisfied with what we’ve shown them about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Signs are placed in areas where cameras are being used to notify people they are there.

One of the earliest use of cameras in Kelowna was at the Queensway bus loop.

“When we first put cameras up at the Queensway bus loop and we sent them an information package a number of years ago, they said this is great, thank you for all of this but we’re not passing any comment or judgement on the compliance of your program but, thank you for the information,” Fleming said.

The existing guidelines, called Using Overt Video Surveillance, can be viewed on line here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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