cameras at City Park Co-op shock residents
By: Joe Fiorito
09 May 2014
Demerling, a City Park Co-op resident, says he learned that hidden
pinhole cameras in his building were not connected to the usual bank of
security monitors, but to a laptop kept in a locked drawer in the
Fiorito / Toronto Star
City Park Co-op is tucked in behind what we used to call Maple Leaf
Gardens. The co-op is a handsome complex, three buildings in all, with
a fašade that whispers “downtown.”
Or maybe “Big Brother.”
Because somebody is watching; proof of this came when residents got a
letter from the board of directors recently, with this disturbing news:
“On April 7, the board was advised, for the first time, that there are
concealed pinhole cameras on certain floors in the co-op.”
Concealed pinhole cameras?
“The property manager and the security manager first learned of these
concealed pinhole cameras during the annual inspection of the fire
equipment which took place on April 7, 2014. There was no annual
inspection done in 2013.”
The cameras were installed on 25 floors of the 42 floors in the
“Upon being advised of the cameras’ existence, the board directed that
the cameras be shut off immediately. The cameras were shut off and
remain shut off.”
I should hope so.
“Since becoming aware of and conducting its investigation in this
matter (which remains ongoing), the Board learned that the cameras were
installed in early 2013.”
In other words, there has been a year of secret spying in the co-op.
Speculation is rampant; so far, there seems to be no evidence that the
board at the time was ever consulted about the installation; there
exists, however, an invoice for a capital expense in the amount of
$26,000, which is as yet unexplained.
Who dunnit, and why?
Look here: I’ve been in a lot of apartment buildings, including many in
the city’s social housing portfolio; the presence of security cams is
usually no big deal, and can be desirable in some circumstances. But
the cameras in the hallways of City Park were not only secretly
installed, they were hidden.
I met with a couple of co-op members the other day.
A resident named Nicole said, “I felt an absolute and immediate
invasion of my privacy.” Did the secret cameras, once she knew about
the fact they had been there in the past, not make her feel safe? She
said, “They made me feel more insecure. I should have been aware.”
Nicole asked that I not use her last name; co-ops are run differently
than any other kind of housing and, for whatever reason, she fears the
power of the board.
Ken Demerling has no such fear. He said, “I was shocked. I wanted to
know whether the cameras were being monitored by regular security or
Ken said he learned that the pinhole cameras were not connected to the
usual bank of security monitors, but to a laptop kept in a locked
drawer in the security room; he says the company providing security at
the present moment was unaware of the existence of the laptop.
What no one seems to know is whether the hidden laptop has been feeding
images surreptitiously to any other computers anywhere else in the
city. In other words, nobody knows who was watching, or why.
As soon as she found out about the spy cams, Nicole said, “I looked at
the fire alarm inside my apartment when I found out. I looked in all
the vents. I looked in the bathroom. Who knows if there are any other
She noted, with deep irony, that there are no cameras in the laundry
room where she says her son was once propositioned by an old pervert;
might have been nice to have that on camera.
There was to have been a special meeting of the residents last week.
That meeting was cancelled at the last minute because of the rain, on a
day when it had rained earlier but the rain had stopped and there was
no more rain in the forecast; go figure.
A new meeting has been held. I’ll try to find out what happened. I have
an interview with the past president later on today, and have requested
an interview with the current president.
I’ll keep you posted.
From these comments, the residents
believe that the cameras were installed either to:
1. Catch an arsonist.
2. Spy on residents who were political opponents of the president.
Is it possible that the cameras served both purposes?
@selectrick She put them on certain floors because the people who were
trying to bring her very cruel and dictatorial presidency down. The
co-op's lawyers have sent her a letter to explain this.. .and she did
Hmm... why does that not surprise any of us here in the Co-op.
@Etobicoke ratepayer no it was done to monitor those people who were
trying to fight for those the then prez Heather Moyer from behaving
more and more dictatorial. She was firing staff without cause other
they knew of her secrets and now they have filed lawsuits (several of
them), She would take up valuable tax payers dollars by calling police
over and over again based on false accusations, she hired bullying
security guards.. the fact that the city had to send a rep to sit in on
our Board meeting when she was prez to watch that she doesn't continue
with her dictatorial and cruel behavior says it all.
I contacted a friend who lives in that co-op on Church St. Everybody
knows about the cameras. They were installed to keep tabs on problems
of arson and drug dealing. Maybe people new to the building don't know
but the installation of the cameras was no secret, done in the open. In
every large collection of people, many with nothing to do all day,
malcontents and gossips are not hard to find.
@muscle2 Yes there was some arson in one of the buildings but the fact
that she selectively (in the other two buildings she put them on floors
where people were trying to get transparency) chose only those floors
in the other two buildings to put those secret cameras is totally wrong
and is an example of her presidency based on fear and intimidation.
@muscle280 I`m surprised they didn`t tell you that all of the cameras
in the other two buildings where there were no fires in the garbage
chutes, were placed on floors where the past prez had people fighting
to keep our co-op democratic and no cruel Co-op. The past prez was
scolded by the City for her tyrannical behavior and she had two recall
attempts (the first time in history that a prez had a recall vote.)
@seniora no she did it all in secret. that's how bad a prez she was in
her very secret dictatorial behavior and why the city had a rep come to
the Board meetings.. to watch over her.
Joe conveniently omits the fact that at the time when the cameras
appear to have been installed a firebug was putting lit materials down
the garbage chute in the building which has the most cameras, that the
cameras were trained on the hallways outside the garbage chutes and not
in any places where one would have a reasonable expectation of privacy,
and that the firebug had been the source of so many fires in the
garbage compactor that the recycling and garbage rooms were padlocked
overnight because security (and the Board) were unable to determine who
was causing the fires. Sure, there are still questions to be answered,
but the situation looks substantially different now, doesn't it? Forget
about keeping us "posted"... how about doing the research BEFORE
writing the article?
follow up column
Police, fire departments can’t justify co-op’s
spy cameras: Fiorito
Joe Fiorito Columnist
16 May 2014
You will recall the discovery of secret spy cameras on 25 of the 42
floors of the City Park Co-op. They were found during a routine check
of the smoke detectors.
The board of the co-op swiftly sent a letter to tenants, advising them
of this fact and serving notice that the board was looking into things.
I talked to a couple of residents about their reaction to the letter,
and to the cameras. They were, as you might expect, upset.
They were not the only ones.
Heather Moyer, the immediate past-president of the co-op, declined an
interview she had previously agreed to; she did not respond to my
questions about why she would not speak.
Robert Fisher, the current president, also declined to be interviewed;
he said the board is pursuing an investigation, and he does not want to
comment at this time.
Oh, but many co-op members wrote.
Some suggested, indignantly, that if a person has done nothing wrong,
then he or she has nothing to fear from any cameras, secret or not, no
matter who installed them or why, and no matter who is recording or
viewing — or possibly distributing — the images.
Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, anyone who would give up his or her
rights so eagerly does not deserve your respect, nor do they have mine.
An aside: there is little evidence that spy cameras, whether overt or
covert, are at all useful in deterring crime. And as we know from
certain images of a politician with a crack pipe in his hand, video
evidence of bad behaviour rarely leads to criminal charges.
But I digress.
Some residents of City Park suggested to me that the cameras were
installed, on the advice of the fire department, to catch someone in
the act of setting mischief fires.
But Deputy Chief Mike McCoy said the fire department would never, under
any circumstances, recommend the installation of secret cameras.
He also said that the incidence of fires at City Park is “typical of
highrises in the city.” He added that the co-op “is not on the radar of
the fire department.” And he said, “If there were multiple calls, it
would raise a red flag for us.”
But even if that were the case, arson is a crime, and therefore a
police matter; would the cops ever suggest the use of hidden cameras to
spy on tenants in an apartment complex?
Police spokesman Mark Pugash said, “If we advise people to put in
cameras, they’d be overt.”
I pressed him about the use of secret cameras. He said, “I can’t
imagine a situation where we would advise people to do that.” And then
he echoed McCoy, saying he could not find anything to support any
concerns of arson at City Park.
Finally, I had a note from Gordon Scott, of Strategic Improvement
Company. Scott is a consultant in surveillance and security matters,
and is particularly well-informed. He wrote:
“The temporary use of any covert hallway surveillance is not
appropriate. On balance, such an intrusion, however well managed, into
the daily life of residents is, I believe, a greater threat to the
well-being of residents than any possible benefit.”
But even if there were a temporary need for secret cameras — and I’d
argue that’s a stretch — he observed: “The product of any such covert
surveillance must be stored in the same system that records all other
CCTV. The same controls on who views, downloads or distributes images
must apply. Safeguards must exist to ensure that no unauthorized use of
the video footage occurs. The covert camera must be removed when its
mission is accomplished.”
And then he added, “25 covert cameras in use at once seems
preposterous. Separate management and storage of the product of the
covert cameras on a hidden laptop suggests that security personnel
cannot be trusted with the investigation.
“If that is the case . . . there are more serious issues to deal with
than even the covert cameras. It is hard to imagine a state of
uncontrolled criminality and anti-social behaviour so vast and
widespread that such a system would be required.”
I couldn’t have put it better.
But questions remain at City Park: who installed the cameras, why were
they secret, where were the images recorded, and who saw them? Or
rather, is anyone still seeing them? None of this is clear.
This has got to stop.