Taxi owners in Thompson will have to install new cameras in their vehicles at a cost of about $1,250 plus tax now that council has approved a new model of in-car camera for cabs.
Council voted in favour of SD-300 cameras at their June 24 meeting. The previous model of camera used – the G6 Taxicam – has software problems which can prevent the city’s licence inspector from viewing images recorded by the cameras without physically removing the memory card.
“Recently, several issues have arisen from the software,” said a May 17 memo from licence inspector Frank Sharpe to the city’s fire and public safety director Mike Bourgon. “In March, all licences expired without notification. The cameras were still recording but I was unable to view footage for approximately one week, until the licences were renewed. Approximately two weeks ago, the date and time failed on the software. Selectron Solutions [which supports the VeriEye software used in the G6 cameras] advised there was a GPS rollover which caused issues with the viewer displaying the correct date (Similar to Y2K). There is currently no fix for this issue.”
SD-300 cameras have been tested for the past year in Winnipeg, which is in the process of switching taxi cameras to that model. Software support and training to use the new cameras, which come with a one-year warranty, is provided by GRS at no extra cost.
Thompson taxis with G6 cameras experiencing issues will begin being switched over to SD-300 cameras immediately.
“Every single taxi in the city of Thompson has a functioning camera at this time as well as GPS which a lot of people don’t realize is always running,” said city manager Anthony McInnis at the council meeting. “The issue is that our inspector has identified that the models are obsolete and it’s time that we move to a new model. The inspector has consulted with industry on this so the taxicab drivers and owners have been consulted and seem to be in favour of these upgrades.”
Sharpe said at a June 13 public safety committee meeting that the new cameras have better images and 128 gigabyte memory cards that can hold up to four weeks’ worth of footage.
“Right now we’re lucky to get about 10 days,” she said at that time, when Mayor Colleen Smook asked her if SD-300 cameras have the ability to record audio as well.
“The cameras have the technology for audio but it eats into the video time,” said Sharpe.
In-car cameras are required under Thompson’s Taxi Cab Bylaw, which stipulates that the make and model must be approved by council. The bylaw says that licence inspectors can remove images to check for infractions of the bylaw while the RCMP remove images for investigation of crimes.
In-taxi cameras became a bylaw requirement in 2006, following the killing of taxi driver Melissa Chaboyer in 2005. Chaboyer was stabbed and left dead on the ground outside her cab in the back parking lot of the City Centre Mall. Two suspects fled on foot from the scene heading towards Eastwood. Her killing remains unsolved.
“The safety of our taxi drivers given some of the past history that we’ve had in this community is of the most importance,” said Coun. Jeff Fountain, who chairs the public safety committee.
Staff Sgt. Chris Hastie said at the June 13 public safety meeting that Thompson RCMP had received six to eight complaints about taxi drivers in the past few months, though none of these had led to any arrests or charges as of May 31.
“This is not only protection for the cab industry but for the people that ride in the cabs,” said Coun. Les Ellsworth.
The committee plans to change the bylaw in the future so that camera model changes can be approved by the licence inspector.
“The changes of the bylaw would require three readings and the process would be over a month and our inspector as well as the committee felt that it was prudent to do this as quickly as possible to provide security to the community as well as the taxicab industry which is why this is coming to council,” said McInnis. “The plan is for the committee to continue to work on the bylaw amendment to give flexibility to administration.”