300+ cameras in CCTV plan

A
sweeping plan to install more than 300 closed-circuit television cameras in public areas across
Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac within the next few years has received approval
from Cabinet members.

How
much the installation and maintenance of the system will cost isn’t known; part
of that will depend on the bids received for the project. Government is
finalising a request for proposal document that officials with the Portfolio of
Internal and External Affairs hope will be sent out late this month or in early
July.

A
consulting group, Aware Digital of Florida, USA, was paid about $40,000 earlier
this year to study and design the specifications for the system the Cayman
Islands government wanted – based on current crime patterns and the topography
of the Islands. Little Cayman will not receive any cameras simply because crime
there is almost non-existent, officials said.

The
design includes about 70 clusters or “pods” where cameras will be placed,
according to Portfolio Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush. All of those areas are
on public roadways or rights-of-way. None will be placed on private properties
unless the landowners agree beforehand.

The
cameras will be able to monitor roads, sidewalks, building entrances, parking
lots, intersections; anywhere that is considered a public area. However,
officials said the cameras cannot be used to monitor private property – such as
looking into the windows of people’s homes and the like. A story concerning the
legal issues surrounding the use of CCTV cameras will be in a later edition of
the Caymanian Compass. 

How
many cameras are placed in each location or pod varies based on the need of
each location, Mr. Bush said.

“For
example, in the design, they call for one pod to be at the Hurley’s
roundabout,” he said. “For every lane of traffic, there is…to be one camera. So
there are nine cameras in that area (in the design).”

At
most locations, the consultant’s design calls for between two or three cameras
in each pod.

“It’s
safe to say the current design is over 300 cameras,” Mr. Bush said. “That being
said, it is designed to be phased. With the current financial situation, we
believe the project will have to be based on the funding that we have
available.”

The
initial focus of the CCTV project will be the George Town, West Bay Road/Seven
Mile Beach and West Bay areas. Mr. Bush said Cabinet has given approval –
assuming government’s budget is passed by 1 July – that will fund the first
stage of the project.

Those
areas were the hardest hit by a string of violent shootings earlier this year.
There were five homicides on Grand Cayman in the first three months of 2010;
all occurred in West Bay or George Town. Business owners have also expressed
outrage over a perceived increase in armed robberies since the latter half of
2009.

How it will work

Although
the proposal will generally refer to CCTV cameras, there are actually four
specific types of cameras in the design. They include fixed-angle cameras,
pan/tilt/zoom cameras, automatic licence plate readers and speed cameras.

Mr.
Bush said a combination of these cameras will be used at the various pod
locations, depending on the needs identified. He noted two types in particular,
speed cameras and licence plate readers, were specifically aimed at traffic.
However, Mr. Bush opined those would also serve a purpose in catching criminal
suspects.

“Right
now, the criminals travel if and when they want to, in large part undetected,”
he said. “This technology will allow the police to have a database of known
vehicles that are used by criminals and give them information as and when it’s
happening.

“So
if they have a licence plate 1-2-3 4-5-6 put in their database as a wanted
vehicle, or stolen vehicle, or a vehicle that’s associated with a wanted
person, that vehicle crosses West Bay Road…and we have an ANPR (automated
number plate reader) camera there; that automatically will be triggered to the
911 Centre and they will have that information.”

The
911 Emergency Communications Centre will be tasked with monitoring the cameras,
but Mr. Bush said there won’t be a bevy of personnel there staring at TV
screens all day searching for people engaging in criminal behaviour. Rather, he
said the system would be “passively monitored” – meaning that 911 employees
will be notified of incidents by police and could then assist first responders
at those scenes through the use of real-time video images.

“If
they get a call that an incident is happening at a location which we have
coverage with CCTV, this gives them an opportunity to…better dispatch and
communicate what is going on,” Mr. Bush said.

Chris
Duggan of Butterfield Bank acted as the private sector’s representative on a
six-person government steering committee that met with design consultants and
essentially created the blueprint for the CCTV project. Other members included
Mr. Bush, 911 Director Brent Finster, Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief
Inspector Robert Scotland, Computer Services Department Director Wesley Howell,
and Senior Crown Counsel Wayde Bardswell.

“We
spent a number of days with police and various entities working out the best
(camera) locations,” Mr. Duggan said. “For example, any entrance or exit point
of West Bay…every single vehicle travelling into and out of West Bay will be
recorded. So if you had a crime that took place in West Bay and we knew a
vehicle went into West Bay between 9.30 and 10pm, we could look on the cameras
and we could see every single vehicle that went in.”

Cameras
monitored by 911 staff would also be recording around the clock, so that data
could be examined at a later date.

The
cost of implementing the entire CCTV system as designed isn’t clear, and Mr.
Bush said he didn’t want to prejudice any future bids on the CCTV project by
estimating the price of the system.

Earlier
this year, a figure of $3 million was bandied about at a Cayman Islands Tourism
Association meeting – including speculation about a $2 million contribution to
the total amount from private sector companies. But Mr. Bush admitted during a
lengthy interview with the Caymanian Compass Wednesday that the entire system
could end up costing more.

“I
hope it doesn’t, but it depends on the bids received,” he said.

CCTV
cameras can run anywhere from $500-$9,000 a piece.

While
he said he couldn’t speak to the $2 million private sector contribution figure,
Mr. Duggan said Cayman’s businesses were fully behind the project and would be
willing to consider monetary donations or placing surveillance cameras on their
own properties that face into public areas.

“I
think there is a willingness on the part of the private sector to assist,” he
said.

Not just about cameras

Cameras
are just one part of the entire CCTV system that government and its consultants
have designed. A second major consideration is how the data collected by the cameras
will be transported and stored.

These
issues will be determined largely by the company that wins the CCTV project
bid.

As
far as transporting the captured images, Mr. Bush said the portfolio believes it
can be done either wirelessly or on a secure fibre optic network owned by the
Cayman Islands government. But that can’t be done everywhere on the Islands.
Some locations will have to depend on physical transport of the recording
mechanisms.

“It’s
likely to be a hybrid,” Mr. Bush said; meaning data transmission will take
place partly on wired and wireless networks and partly the by physical
transport. 

How
the cameras are secured and exactly how they are to be placed in their
locations will also depend on the company that wins the bid to install and
maintain them. Police Commissioner David Baines has previously said that anyone
attempting to destroy or disable the cameras will face jail time upon
conviction.

Maintenance
of the system, taking care of issues like cameras that sustain storm damage and
the like, will also be left to the bid-winning contractor. Mr. Bush said the
bid documents would contain an option for a three-year or five-year warranty on
the devices.

Mr.
Duggan said maintenance was one of the key issues for the private sector
interests. He said businesses don’t want government to install a system and not
keep it in working order.

Mr.
Bush said, for this reason, the government decided to give the successful
contractor a wide berth in installing and maintaining the CCTV system.

“Government
(is) not a specialist in security systems,” he said. “I don’t believe in
starting a new function that is already in the private sector.”

That
doesn’t mean the government won’t maintain control and oversight in managing
the system, Mr. Bush said.

He
said it was likely that 911 would hire an additional employee to act as a CCTV
administrator. The data recordings and use of the cameras, especially the
pan/tilt/zoom cameras, should also be available for audits to determine whether
they’re being used properly.

The
bid documents would specify how long the recordings should be kept in the
system. If police need to use any part of the recording, they should be able to
burn those sections to a CD, Mr. Bush said. 

Issues
surrounding the legality of CCTV and its proper uses will be further examined
in a future article.

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