CCTV leads cops to bank suspects

But roadblocks pave path to national camera system

Surveillance cameras at the
Countryside Shopping Centre were responsible for identifying the getaway
vehicle which two robbers used following last week’s lunchtime heist at Cayman
National Bank.

Police Commissioner David Baines
told a crowd of some 50 people gathered Wednesday at a Chamber of Commerce
meeting at the Marriott Beach Resort about what lead to the arrest of two
suspects.

“The robbery that took place at the
bank, there was a degree of information put forward by security guards…that
they suspected this vehicle, a red coloured vehicle,” said. Mr. Baines. “We
went back, took out all the CCTV coverage on Countryside and identified that a
different vehicle was responsible.”

“That has triggered the line of
enquiry that has identified the individuals we have in custody. Without that
information, we would have gone purely off an erroneous report – given with the
best of intentions – but wrong nonetheless. CCTV started to fill the gaps.”

The ‘caught on tape’ aspect doesn’t
work in every case, but Mr. Baines said there have been instances in UK murder
investigations he’s worked on where CCTV has placed a suspect at the scene of
the crime when they initially denied being there.

“It gives you the ability to take
to a court the type of evidence people can see…with their own eyes, where they
may doubt the personal testimony of somebody,” he said.

Representatives from government’s
Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs – which has administrative
responsibility for law enforcement – said they were in the information-gathering
stage of developing a national closed-circuit television system.

Currently, many businesses around
the Islands use surveillance cameras on their
own private properties. But those systems don’t communicate with each other,
and there is no mechanism that exists to feed that information back to police
stations in real time.

Portfolio Deputy Chief Officer Eric
Bush told the Chamber audience Wednesday that there’s a substantial difference
between a private business owner putting cameras on their property, and the
government putting cameras on a public street.

“Under the new Constitution…everybody
has the right to privacy,” Mr. Bush said. “We need to ensure that the
legislation that’s in place now accurately regulates the use of public surveillance.”

Mr. Bush said officials in the
legal services department have informed him that there would be about 15 local
laws Cayman would need to either change or enact – including a Data Protection
Law – before a national camera surveillance system could be implemented.

“Particularly where there is a
bleed-over into private premises, the government needs to ensure that policies
are in place so as not to infringe on anyone’s human rights,” he said.

The government is currently in
discussions with a consultant to review strategies and designs for a national
surveillance camera system, but Mr. Bush said they are merely at the discussion
stage right now. He said cameras could be used for a number of measures
including border security, traffic management and enforcement.

The cost of installing and
maintaining such a system was unknown.

“What we look to achieve in this
first stage is to create a design that would meet all of these objectives that
would be scalable…so that we could bite them off and reasonable amounts,” Mr.
Bush said.

The ability to leave out the
eyewitness testimony often required in criminal court cases is a major selling
point on CCTV for Commissioner Baines, who has previously lamented the fact
that witnesses to crime are simply too afraid to tell what they know before a
jury.

“There is no escape for anybody,”
Mr. Baines told the Chamber crowd. “If you give evidence against people,
they’ll go to prison, but you have to see their family in Foster’s (grocery
store).”

Mr. Baines said the attorney
general’s office has recently drafted legislation that would allow witnesses to
testify anonymously through the use of voice alteration technology. That
proposal has not yet reached the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly.

He said witnesses are sometimes
removed from the Cayman Islands and taken to
secure locations particularly in serious violent crimes and gang-related
incidents. However, that can often cost the Cayman Islands
government tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in each case.  

Comments are closed.