CCTV a good idea…in theory

We at the Observer on Sunday are all for
helping local police catch the seemingly ever-increasing number of robbers and
burglars now prowling Grand Cayman’s streets in the overnight – or indeed even
the broad daylight – hours.

If the installation of closed-circuit
television cameras in public places can do so, fine.

But it appears, based on evidence from
other jurisdictions that use these devices, the greatest difficulty is not in
installing them, but in making certain they are maintained and continue to
function properly.

The government’s Portfolio of Internal and
External Affairs has been very thorough up to this point in its research and
design procedure regarding CCTV. They do seem to have “thought this thing
through”, for lack of a better phrase.

But what we have not seen yet, and perhaps
it does depend in large degree on the on-going bidding process for the cameras’
installation, is a long-term plan for maintenance and continued operation of
these devices.

What happens if there is a hurricane, and
the government’s multi-million dollar public CCTV system is wiped out? Even if
the contractor is properly insured for such an event, it will take days and
perhaps weeks or even months to get the system up and running again.

That’s an eternity during which criminal
suspects will have a freer reign – without the watchful eye of ‘Big Brother’ –
during a particularly vulnerable time on the Islands.

What about normal wear-and-tear on the
devices? How will the contractor’s insurance and contingency plans cover these

In our front-page article this week, Chris
Duggan of Butterfield Bank makes perhaps the most important point about the government’s
CCTV system- the absolute necessity of proper maintenance and repair of these

We are fervently of the hope that this
project does not turn into another $1-point-something million-dollar-a-year
expense for the government going forward, similar to what the operations and
maintenance of the RCIPS patrol helicopter have become.

If Cayman is going to play with high-tech
gadgets, we must ensure that a high-tech budget is behind them to support these
grandiose ideas.

Otherwise, we’ll end up with a bunch of
blank camera screens feeding back to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre
and likely yet another highly-publicised dispute between government and one of
its contractors over who gets to foot the bill for fixing the problem.

In this regard, we are encouraged by
statements from the Portfolio that only locally licenced security firms can bid
on the installation and implementation of running a CCTV system. At least, if
something goes wrong, Cayman can hold someone accountable for a solution;
someone that has every bit as much to lose as the country does if things do go
haywire with CCTV.