June 27, 2008 07:52 +0000  |  CCTV Drupal Employment Family The Toronto Public Space Committee Work [at] Play 0

I'm trying to post more here lately as it would seem that since moving to Vancouver, my posts have been more and more sparsely scattered about the month. To that end, here's a quickie post regarding my relatively good day:

I had my review today. Good news: they like my work, and they're giving me a raise (w00t!) The only somewhat negative thing the boss mentioned was how I didn't know enough about Drupal yet. I can understand her position really, I mean, a large portion of our legacy code is in that horrible framework, so it only makes sense that as a senior developer, I know my way around it. I guess I'll just have to take a deep breath, bash my head in with a crowbar, and work from there. ^_^

Anyway, aside from the good review, I found a new sandwich shop in the area that serves giganimous sandwiches, and then discovered some left over birthday cake in the office fridge. This, coupled with the fact that I got a big chunk of work done today (and documented!) made me happy with my current form of employment.

I also fielded a 1hour call with a University student out of Windsor, Ontario to give him some background on the TPSC's CCTV campaign back when I was running the show. That was a bit of nostalgic fun -- kinda like talking to the press, but you can be a little more candid since you know that you're not talking to the uninformed public, but rather a well-read academic.

And then, to top it all off, I came home to a clean apartment AND new groceries in the fridge! Butthead had been hard at work and it showed. Having a roomate might not be so bad after all ;-) He's making a lot of progress with his own life lately though. I'm really quite proud of him.

January 23, 2008 18:45 +0000  |  CCTV Vancouver Vancouver Public Space Network 2

I'm here not more than 3months and already I've jumped into the CCTV debate. It's funny, I had no intention of getting involved, but the cover story of the Province was so offensive, I just had to write something.

The story is this, murderous cowards shoot drug dealing murderer in font of a prestigious high-end restaurant downtown. Public is freaked out, mayor says that we need more cameras as a result. However, the cops are already reveiwing footage for 30 other cameras that were in use on the scene as well as numerous eye-witnesses. This may sound a little familiar to the Toronto folk readin this.

Here's the Original article in the Province.

And here's my letter to the editor response:

I am positively baffled by the Mayor's insistence that increased CCTV cameras are the wisest response to the shooting outside Gotham steakhouse. As if the 30 cameras already being sourced by police weren't enough, Sullivan seems bent on wasting more money on devices that clearly will not make the streets any safer.

We have mountains of data from countries around the world proving that these contraptions do nothing but cost millions of dollars and have little or no effect on crime.

We also have a long list of eye-witnesses to the event, and that tells us one very important thing: these criminals don't care about being seen. These acts were brazen and violent and watching it all on TV will not prevent this from happening again.

Ms Fry at least has it half right. We need better citizen interaction with police, better lighting and a crack down on guns and drugs running across our borders. These are methods actually known to work in the prevention of crime.

I don't know if it'll get published, but if it does, I'll post a link here.

Update: 2008.02.07 08:51:00 PST

While I'd given up hope that the letter would be published, it turns out that they did in fact print the letter -- if only a few days late. My parents found it and my grandmother sent me the link, so here you go if you're interested.

August 21, 2007 04:14 +0000  |  CCTV The Toronto Public Space Committee 1

In an effort to draw some attention to the CCTV problem downtown, my campaign did up some street theatre where we murdered a blow up doll complete with fake blood. It was fun. Here's the plan, as laid out in our Facebook event:

We will gather at the Tim Hortons, discuss the plan, then leave separately to our designated starting locations. Shayla the blow up doll will wander up the street when the rest of the "suspects", dressed similarly, converge on her.

As everyone passes her, we'll burst a plastic bag of red (water-based) paint will burst on the doll's chest and Shayla will scream: OH MY GOD! MY BLOW UP DOLL'S BEEN STABBED! (complete with flagrant hand gestures etc.)

The suspects will continue in their original directions spraying more water-based paint along the sidewalk showing their direction until they move out of view of the camera (either into an alley, or a crowd.)

While this is happening myself and other interested volunteers will be handing out pamphlets designed by our brilliant graphics guy explaining what's going on and directing people to the website.

Lastly, the "real murderer" will make a confession on Speaker's Corner explaining what's just transpired, directing viewers to our site as well.

Shayla in Mourning

Well the grand plan didn't work out exactly as I had intended, but it was fun nonetheless. Firstly, there were fewer people around than I would have liked, but it's what you can expect on a Saturday I suppose. Secondly, my choreography sucked and our use of less-damaging Silly String instead of paint meant that a lot of the colour of the thing didn't work out. Lastly, I printed up the wrong set of brochures so what was distributed was the version with the draft copy instead of the properly proofed copy and it showed.

With the negative stuff out of the way though, it was still fun and we may still make a valid point. Shayla (the mourning friend) was fucking amazing. Her screaming and improvised (yet high-larious) cries had me laghing my ass off. We'll have to request the footage from the cops and see if anything was really captured and then do another press release explaining how the cameras couldn't have prevented this even if it was a real killing etc. I can't wait to hear if we get any fun press around the Speakers Corner bit. That'd be nifty.

Anyway, if you haven't seen them yet, here's some snippets of what happened. Stephen took some great pictures with his shiny camera and posted it all in his Flickr account, and Torontoist did a story on the whole event:

...and that pretty much marks the end of my career with the Toronto Public Space Committee. It's been amazing and dare I say, "life changing" experience. It's a hell of a feeling being able to engage City Hall and tell the mayor to his face that he's doing it all wrong. Sometimes they listen, most often they don't, but sometimes... you make the world better. ...and that's hard to beat.

August 09, 2007 15:35 +0000  |  CCTV The Toronto Public Space Committee 0

A couple weeks ago, EYE's editor came out on the side of CCTV and I bitched them out for it in a letter last week. They've published it in this week's EYE as the first letter (yay!) but sadly, there's no online version so I can't direct you to any links. I will however include it here for my own records though this version won't include their edits for length:

I'm really surprised that EYE would take such an unfortunate position on CCTV in our public spaces. You claim that there is no difference between being seen in public and watched by police camera, but I would beg to differ. We know from the experiences of other cities that CCTV can and has been used to persecute "undesirable" citizens like panhandlers and protesters, and now The Independent is reporting that London, the most camera-saturated city in the world has begun restricting access to tube stations and air ports based on political affiliations no doubt supported by police cameras. How can we claim to foster democracy while we're openly attempting to trade our freedoms for a false sense of security?

While arguably there is a difference between a bunch of independent cameras and a district-wide, centralised, police-controlled system that can read the labels on a soft drink can, how can anyone claim that recording acts of violence makes anyone safer?

Since this pilot program began, there have been shootings directly in front of CCTV cameras and not only did the footage provide absolutely no leads, but the victims have had to limp to hospital for lack of support from groups like the police who would seemingly prefer to watch people get shot on TV than prevent the shooting in the first place.

If the "test" for this program's effectiveness is in fact this recent shooting within the view of a camera, then I would suggest that the project is already a failure -- unless we've collectively decided that the role of the police is not to protect, but to prosecute.

Update: 2007.08.10

Looks like I was wrong. Jonathan found the online version.

July 26, 2007 22:57 +0000  |  CCTV The Toronto Public Space Committee 1

I just sent this to The Toronto Star. If it gets printed, I'll let you know:

It is wrong for the Toronto Police Board to claim that every aspect of its budget is vital to the longevity of this city. The CCTV camera project currently being run in the Entertainment District, Jane & Finch and Malvern is running at a cost of $2 million for the pilot alone and we have plenty of research that proves that these cameras do nothing to prevent crime. In a time when the city is hurting financially and the people do not want a reduction in officers, why is this expensive and ineffective project not on the chopping block?

Daniel Quinn
Coordinator, Cameras in Public Spaces Campaign
Toronto Public Space Committee

May 10, 2007 14:36 +0000  |  Activism CCTV Public Space Published The Toronto Public Space Committee 0

Chris Oullette, one of the members of our CCTV group int he TPSC wrote a letter to the editor as an op-ed piece and it got published. It's some really great writing and it hits on all the important points. Very nice work Chris.

May 05, 2007 17:16 +0000  |  CCTV Public Space The Toronto Public Space Committee 0

Just a quick note. CCTV was big in The Toronto Star today and an interview with me made it into one of them.

The first article refers to CCTV as nothing more than a "social placebo", and the second is an in-depth look at Toronto's program specifically, closing with a suggestion that we make an official Charter challenge against these cameras.

Now I don't think the TPSC has the kind of resources available to launch a Charter challenge. Hell, I'm not even sure what kind of resources would be required. Maybe we can petition the privacy commissioner to do it for us though? Does that sort of thing happen? Would a legal clinic help? I honestly don't know, but I'm going to find out.

April 06, 2007 04:22 +0000  |  Activism CCTV The Toronto Public Space Committee 6

It took quite a while, but it's up. Please take a look and let me know what you think. Be kind, this was a lot of work:

February 21, 2007 13:50 +0000  |  Activism CCTV Public Space Published The Toronto Public Space Committee 8

This time, I had way more than 2seconds of play too :-)

The CCTV cameras are going up whether we like it or not, and CityTV wanted to do a story on it and interview me. Unfortunately the TPSC position isn't mentioned at all in the text-copy, but my interview is in the video.

CityTV has the story here.