Smile, you’re on camera

It might surprise the reader to
note that the first documented usage of a closed-circuit camera system was in
1942 in Germany. The cameras were used to observe the launching of V-2 war
rockets; an experimental weapon developed toward the end of World War II.

A similar system was used by the US
military in the 1940s, but it took almost another two decades before the
cameras first started to be used in public places. In the 1960s, the UK began
using the cameras to monitor crowds during rallies and appearances of public
figures. Eventually the cameras were installed to monitor roads, sidewalks,
city centres, public transit stations and businesses.

The United States was somewhat
slower to begin using closed-circuit monitoring for law enforcement purposes,
with the first such cameras installed in the late 1960s in the New York City
municipal building.

Through the 1970s and 1980s in the
US, CCTV system use became more common in ‘high-profile target’ businesses like
banks, convenience stores and gas stations. The use of public surveillance
cameras in the US is typically not common, but other types of cameras such as
red-light monitoring cameras and ATM surveillance cameras are used in cities
across the country.

Also, many large US cities use the
cameras for traffic monitoring purposes to assist with public transit

The cameras are often touted by law
enforcement as an additional tool to assist in crime-busting activities. But
statistical evidence of that is uncertain, at best.

In fact, in 2008 a New Scotland
Yard police chief inspector, Mick Neville, gave the following view during a
security conference: “It’s been an utter fiasco: only 3 per cent of crimes were
solved by CCTV. There’s no fear of CCTV. Why don’t people fear it? (They think)
the cameras are not working.”

Chief Inspector Neville’s point was
not that CCTV cameras shouldn’t be used. Rather, he stated that in far too many
criminal cases it has emerged that a CCTV camera was faulty or was pointing in
the wrong direction.

Royal Cayman Islands Police
Commissioner David Baines, a strong CCTV proponent, said earlier this year that
he had proof in at least one case where closed-circuit cameras had assisted in
catching local criminals.

Baines credited private
surveillance cameras at the Countryside Shopping Centre were responsible for
identifying the getaway vehicle that two robbers used following a lunchtime
heist in February at the Cayman National Bank.

Baines told a crowd of some 50
people gathered in February 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,” he said. “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 Baines says 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.

Since then, RCIPS has adopted a
policy of releasing closed-circuit surveillance tapes to the public in certain
instances where a particular suspect has not already been identified and
investigators believe a member of the public might be able to identify a
suspect or a vehicle.

However, all the images released
thus far have come from privately-operated CCTV cameras. Cayman has no such cameras
placed in public rights of way.

That’s about to change.

300 cameras

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 received approval from Cabinet
members in late May.

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 has set aside $2 million for
implementation of the system in the current year’s budget – but it is expected
to cost more. 

A consulting group, Aware Digital
of Florida 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.

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.

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

“For example, in the design, they
call for one pod to be at the Hurley’s roundabout,” he says. “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,” Bush says. “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

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.

CCTV system

Although the proposal generally refers
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.

Bush says 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, 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 says. “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

The 911 Emergency Communications
Centre will be tasked with monitoring the cameras, but Bush says 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,”
Bush says.

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 Bush, 911 Director Brent
Finster, Royal Cayman Islands Police Chief Inspector Robert Scotland, Computer
Services Department Director Wesley Howell and Senior Crown Counsel Wayde

“We spent a number of days with
police and various entities working out the best (camera) locations,” Duggan says.
“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 Bush says he didn’t want to prejudice
any future bids on the CCTV project by estimating the price of the system. The
bidding process is due to come to a close later this month.

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 Bush admitted the entire system could end up costing

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

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

He couldn’t speak to the $2 million
private sector contribution figure, but Duggan says 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

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

The full package

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, Bush says 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,” Bush
says; 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. 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. Bush says the bid documents would
contain an option for a three-year or five-year warranty on the devices.

Duggan says maintenance is 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.

Bush says, 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 says. “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.

Bush says it is likely that 911
will 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, Bush

Laws governing ‘Big Brother’

Many of Cayman Islands laws must be
amended to accommodate the closed-circuit television system along public roadways
and rights-of-way.

The most significant change – the
creation of a CCTV law in the Cayman Islands – likely won’t be done before the
first set of cameras are in place and operating.

According to government’s time
schedule, once the bid process is complete and a company is selected to build
the system, installation of the first phase of cameras might take another three
to six months.

It’s anticipated the law governing
the operation of the devices won’t be in place by then.

Bush says that legal advice
government had received indicated that no new laws or amendments would be
needed to actually install surveillance cameras in the public right-of-way.
However, he says a set of operating procedures to make sure the system is
effective and does not get abused is essential.

“We can’t afford to mess this up,”
Bush says. “There will be a lot of eyes on this project. Certainly the management
and regulation of how the imagery is used is very important.”

One of the problems is that law
enforcement won’t know exactly what issues will arise with the cameras until
they are in use. CCTV is used liberally by private businesses in the Cayman
Islands, but the Islands do not have any surveillance cameras on public
property and Cayman has never had an integrated monitoring system such as the
one now proposed. 

“I’m not an advocate of rushing
into legislation and then six weeks after having to change it because [the plan
for CCTV cameras] was thought up in a room…and not used by practitioners,” Bush

It’s not thought that the creation
of a CCTV law would take years, but in the interim Bush says a ‘code of
practice’ would be drafted. Government officials envision this as a manual that
would guide 911 operators, police and other law enforcement agencies on the
proper use of the cameras. The code will also set out penalties for abusing the
camera system.

“This code will eventually form the
basis of the CCTV law,” he says.

One of the major concerns expressed
by Cayman’s private businesses during the process of drawing up plans for CCTV
was the possibility that the cameras’ eye will end up wandering into people’s

“We need to ensure that these
cameras will not intrude onto private property,” says Duggan.

Bush says government will have a
“robust” camera management system in place, and will use technology to help
ensure that a person’s privacy rights are not violated.

“What we may end up doing is that,
in areas where [the camera’s] field of view goes into a private citizen’s
yard…the management system would automatically de-pixel the image,” he says.
“So, you’d be scrolling and as long as it goes to that angle….it would start to
get fuzzy. Then, as it enters again into a public area (the picture) would
become clear.”

Speed cameras that will also be
used as part of the CCTV system will be able to show 911 operators pictures of
the vehicles, including the driver and front-seat passenger of a car or truck
that is photographed.

The way the cameras are monitored
at the 911 Emergency Communications Centre would make it extremely unlikely
that people would be caught doing something untoward in their vehicles. The system
is “passively monitored” – meaning 911 workers would likely not even be
watching the screens unless they were first alerted by police.

“It’s not expected you would catch
somebody smoking ganja in the car,” Bush says, giving an example.

If a 911 operator took a
surveillance video to look at it, and couldn’t explain why they did it; they
would fall afoul of the code of practices, Bush says.

“They will have to explain why they
went back on the video to look,” he says. “Mechanisms will be there to record
those operating the system so auditors can review it.”

Changes to the Cayman Islands
Traffic Law, as well as the Criminal Procedure Code will have to be made to
allow photographic evidence from speed cameras and automatic licence plate
readers to be allowed in traffic-related cases. However, video and photos from
CCTV cameras in criminal investigations such as robberies, murders, burglaries
and the like is already allowed.

It is also envisioned that the
position of the CCTV camera groups would have to be gazetted – meaning they
would have to be published in the government’s records, which are available to
the public.

Some changes to the Information and
Communication Technology Law might be needed to cover transporting data from
the cameras to the 911 centre – if those transfers are done on a wireless or
fibre optic cable system.

Another important legal change that
will affect the operation of CCTV is the creation of Cayman’s first Data
Protection Law. That law will, in part, define how images captured by the CCTV
cameras can be used. That legislation is expected to be presented to Cabinet
later this year.

Human rights

The Cayman Islands Human Rights
Commission has taken a keen interest in the government’s CCTV proposal.

However, the group has not formed
an opinion on the use of the devices, largely because members aren’t certain
how they are to be used.

“All we know is that this is what
(government) would like to do,” says commission chairman Richard Coles, a
former Cayman Islands attorney general. “Clearly, that has implications for
privacy rights of private citizens.”

Mr. Coles recently sent a letter to
Deputy Governor Donovan Ebanks asking that the committee be kept up to date on
progress with the cameras, which are being installed as an integrated
monitoring system in response to public concern about violent crimes on Grand

The Human Rights Commission would
obviously have concerns about the placing of the cameras, once that is
determined. But Coles said there are other issues the commission would like to

“One of the real issues is the
information that those cameras record,” he says. “Where will it be stored? How
long will it be stored? When will it be destroyed and under what circumstances
will it be destroyed?”

“I’m sure they’ve thought about all
of these things and I’m sure there will be policies on them,” Coles says.
“That’s what we would like to see.”

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