In response to a letter writer who equated the use of speed cameras near the Virgil school to a cash grab by the state (“Letter: Speed camera near Virgil school is just a cash grab,” The Lake Report, Sept. 20), a number of letter writers have argued that the cameras are necessary to enhance public safety for children.
Others have argued that it is useful tool for managing bad drivers.
Some even argue that there should be more such cameras throughout the town.
Ordinarily when one thinks of criminal activity, one envisages a perpetrator and a victim.
In the case of, for example, an assault, it is easy to identify the individual assaulted as the victim.
Not so in the case of speed cameras.
Here, the victim is the state who is wanting to record and punish anti-social behaviour.
These are sometimes referred to as victimless crimes.
There is no doubt that enhancing public safety for children is a desirable goal.
In law, we refer to that goal as the “mischief” that we are trying to prevent.
However, the means must be limited to addressing the mischief and there must not be overly broad parameters to that law.
Unfortunately, speed cameras operate 24/7.
It is one thing to have the cameras functioning when children are present or perhaps even during the time that they are in school, but it is another to have them functioning outside those hours or even on weekends or during school holidays.
An overly broad law is difficult to justify in a free and democratic society.
As for managing bad drivers, speed cameras do not address that goal.
When one is stopped by the police for speeding the driver gets the ticket for the bad behaviour.
Not so with tickets that are the result of a speed camera.
In that case, the owner of the vehicle gets the ticket and they may not have been the driver at the time.
This difference is recognized by the fact that tickets that are the result of enforcement by way of speed cameras do not generate demerit points.
That brings me to my concern about cameras of all sorts (CCTV cameras) erected in public spaces being used by the state to record and to serve as a tool for punishing anti-social behaviour.
This expansion has occurred in both democracies (the United Kingdom) and in totalitarian regimes (China).
If given a choice I would prefer that victimless crimes go unpunished rather than having Big Brother recording my every transgression.
It would be interesting to have the provincial privacy commissioner weigh in on this matter.