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$3.4M security upgrade coming to Yorkdale mall

A CCTV camera is seen by the Olympic Stadium at the Olympic Park in London, March 28, 2012. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Sang Tan

New surveillance cameras with the ability to capture license plates on vehicles in the parking lot are part of a $3.4 million security upgrade at Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

The expenditure is the largest upgrade in Yorkdale’s 50-year history and it comes after a recent spate of gun violence at the mall.

Last year, one man was fatally shot and another was wounded in what police said was an “ambush” at the mall. Michael Nguyen, 23, was killed on March 30, 2013. Nearly two months later, a man was shot while he ate at the Joey’s restaurant the mall.

“Shopper safety is our number one priority and this security installation will make Yorkdale a very undesirable place for criminal activity,” Anthony Casalanguida, Oxford Properties’ Director of Retail, said in a statement Monday.

“We now have one of the most technologically advanced surveillance coverage systems available to help deter crime, assist police investigations, and help people feel safe.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it’s still a big question whether cameras make people safer.

“There hasn’t been widespread Canadian social science evidence that shows they are effective at reducing crime in a large scale,” Abby Deshman, director of public safety at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said.

“In some locations it can displace crime, like a specific corner or intersection,” she said, but acknowledged that while security cameras don’t deter crime necessarily they do allow for evidence if crimes do happen.”

Deshman said the shootings like the ones at Yorkdale are tragedies, “but it’s hard to imagine that more detailed images from security cameras would have a deterrent on that kind of violent crime.”

There is also widespread evidence that existing rules that govern security cameras for private companies aren’t always followed, Deshman said, like posting a sign indicating surveillance, who is operating it, or where to go with questions or concerns about access to footage.

“We lose privacy. We do not generally expect to be surveyed 24-7 in public spaces. The more we install them, the more we lose that freedom to walk around without people watching.”

“Even that most basic level isn’t being complied with at the vast majority of private businesses,” she said.

Toronto Police praised the upgrades, including the license plate recognition technology.

“Yorkdale has always had excellent security and surveillance,” Toronto police Supt. Selwyn Fernandes said in a statement.

“Yorkdale is raising the bar in private security and the kind of detail its security team can now deliver will be a real deterrent to criminal activity and, when needed, will be an asset to police investigations. We applaud the management and security team for making this investment.”

Deshman criticized the license plate scanner, calling it concerning and questioning the need for such advanced equipment.

“Security cameras are usually based on finding evidence of theft. I can’t think of any reason why a business would need to scan the license plates of people driving into a mall.

“Just because the technology is there, doesn’t mean it should be adopted or used on the general public.”

There are three components of Yorkdale’s security upgrade:
•    Complete 360-degree coverage delivering almost 100 per cent surveillance coverage of public spaces
•    Exceptionally high resolution image capture that allows magnification in remarkable detail; up until now, surveillance images didn’t always provide sufficient detail to assist police investigations
•    A surveillance room staffed by trained security officers monitoring live feeds 24/7 from all surveillance cameras