Problems with Security Cameras

The Annual Statistical Report by Toronto Police Service says only about 17 per cent of more than 4,000 break and enter cases in Toronto apartments have been resolved in the past few years.

In my understanding, this low rate is partially due to the lack of surveillance cameras in some apartments.
However, according to the Municipal Licensing & Standards (MLS), there is no by-law requiring superintendents or rental companies to install security cameras in apartment buildings. And even if there are cameras installed, the picture quality is sometimes of little help in identifying suspects, especially in cases where underground parking is dimly lit.

In 2006, Jennifer and her mother, who live in an old apartment on Morningside Avenue, experienced a robbery in their underground parking lot. The three suspects threatened the victims, stole several hundred dollars from their purse and then ran away.

When the police officers checked the apartment’s surveillance video, the images from the cameras failed to identify the suspects as a result of the parking lot’s poor lighting. Even after the incident, no improvements have been made to the security of this apartment.

Superintendents or rental companies of some apartments rank the purchase and the maintenance of security cameras as a low priority item in their budget. Since each camera would cost on average over $2,000, many low-budget apartments would not be able to afford to purchase one.

Consequently, the safety of the residents in those apartments becomes compromised.

“Those cameras which are not frequently monitored do not prevent the crimes,” said Gary Gomez, crime prevention officer at 42 Division. “A 24-hour monitoring system in the buildings is the best way to prevent the crimes.”

In general, in a budget-deprived apartment there are no security guards patrolling or monitoring the building through cameras.

Whenever crime occurs in apartments, police officers suggest superintendents and residents add more safety measures such as the installation of better locks, high quality cameras and alarm systems. However, budgets are often a barrier in the implementation of these security measures.

Minimal or no, security measures could make crimes in apartments go unnoticed and inevitably crimes of various degrees will become a (major) issue. So, what can the victims do to protect their safety? For some, the only option is to move out and hope it does not happen again.

In Jennifer’s case, there are plans to move into a residential house in a different area.