Some college towns in Nova Scotia are considering camera surveillance to deter students from misbehaving

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HALIFAX — The mayor of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, says her city is considering adding surveillance cameras to a residential neighborhood near Acadia University in response to “continuing and growing” property damage in the community.

HALIFAX — The mayor of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, says her city is considering adding surveillance cameras to a residential neighborhood near Acadia University in response to “continuing and growing” property damage in the community.

The project has raised concerns among student leaders, but another college town in the province will monitor the project to see if it is effective.

Mayor Wendy Donovan says vandalism and occasional mischief by partying students at Acadia University is nothing new, but lately it has caused security concerns in a neighborhood next to campus.

“Almost every weekend, road signs are stolen,” Donovan said in an interview on Friday. Wolfville spent about $12,000 to replace damaged or missing street signs in that neighborhood, she said.

“Not only is it a cost, it’s also dangerous,” she said. Residents were particularly concerned about missing stop signs and the potential for accidents, Donovan added. This is on top of reports of locked car windshields, ripped side mirrors and students urinating in residential yards.

The city has proposed adding 11 cameras to nine streetlights along residential streets adjacent to Acadia for a two-year trial period. The cameras would not be actively monitored, but could be reviewed in the event of an incident.

Donovan said the Acadia Student Union raised privacy concerns about the plan. Union representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

If the pilot camera program is approved by Wolfville council next month and produces results, the mayor of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, home to St. Francis Xavier University, said his town would consider doing likewise.

“If the Wolfville project is successful, we will definitely review it,” Laurie Boucher said in an email. “We share the same challenges because we are both small university towns. She added that there are already cameras around Main Street in downtown Antigonish.

In Kingston, Ont., home to Queen’s University and known as a site of rowdy student parties, Mayor Bryan Patterson said there were no plans to install cameras near campus. Patterson said that was because in Kingston, the damage done to students was largely confined to a handful of specific events.

“For us, the focus was not on vandalism or property damage. There have been more large, out-of-control house parties and unauthorized street parties,” Patterson said in an interview on Friday.

“At times like this, the police have used a variety of different tools to get their eyes on the ground, but these are only temporary measures,” he said.

Wolfville’s more permanent oversight measure will be discussed at this Tuesday’s council meeting, where councilors will consider a staff report released Friday on the pilot project. A vote on the proposal is scheduled for May 17.

Donovan said she was surprised by the student union’s concerns about cameras, since Acadia already has cameras covering much of its campus. She noted that in 2019, when a defibrillator was stolen from an Acadia building, camera footage was used to identify the perpetrators and recover the medical device.

In addition to campus, “a lot of our businesses also have downtown cameras, so the only change is really that they’re being piloted,” she said.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 30, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Lyndsay Armstrong, The Canadian Press

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