CCTV installation delayed two months

Police-monitored closed circuit television cameras that were supposed to be installed in the public rights-of-way on Grand Cayman in March have not gone up on schedule.

It would appear a combination of bureaucratic red tape and technological issues got in the way, but the person managing the project for government said the first batch of cameras should go up late this month or early in June.

“This is an extremely technically complex project,” said Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush. “Plus, we had to change some laws as well.”

The hold up was due in part to the fact that government needed to use power lines owned by Caribbean Utilities Company to transmit images captured by the cameras to secure storage locations. The 
government can do this on its own wireless or hard-wired network in George Town, but in other areas of Grand Cayman it needs the assistance of CUC’s infrastructure.

However, if CUC were to apply for a telecommunications licence with the government-appointed regulatory authority, the Information and Communications Technology Authority, it would have to pay 6 per cent of its yearly earnings to the authority in licensing fees.

Mr. Bush said this was unacceptable to CUC officials, so an agreement was reached to form a subsidiary – Data Link Ltd. – brought into existence solely to transmit images from the public CCTV system. Lawmakers approved changes this year to allow for the new arrangement.

The Information and Communications Technology Authority board was expected to meet late last week or early this week to grant the licence to Data Link. After that, Mr. Bush said, government and the CUC-owned subsidiary Data Link can meet to sort out contract details.

It is not certain how much Data Link will be paid for the use of its electric lines.

“That’s part of the negotiation,” Mr. Bush said.

In the meantime, the government CCTV project managers have not been idle.

“We haven’t waited for everything to happen,” Mr. Bush said. “The monitoring centres [for CCTV cameras] have been purchased and installed at 911 Emergency Centre, at George Town Police Station, at West Bay Police Station and at Bodden Town Police Station.

“The hardware infrastructure, the storage capacity and video management system has been purchased, installed and configured. All of the additional infrastructure work where we are using government fibre and wireless has been completed, so we truly are just waiting on [a contract with Data Link].”

The first phase of the CCTV cameras will cover public rights-of-way in several Grand Cayman districts, including George Town, West Bay and Bodden Town. The system operates independently of private surveillance cameras that businesses or homeowners may have installed and it cannot be used to survey private property locations.

The public CCTV system as proposed by government would have approximately 350 cameras operating once it’s complete. However, many of those cameras will be contained in clusters known as ‘pods’, so the number of actual camera locations will be around 110.

Some 167 closed-circuit television cameras had been scheduled to start going up at 60 locations around Grand Cayman in late March, with completion of the first phase of installation in June. Due to the delays, that completion is now hoped for by August, Mr. Bush said.

The cameras should start working the minute their installation is complete.

‘CCTV cameras’ actually covers three different types of cameras, including fixed video cameras, pan-tilt-zoom video cameras and automatic number plate readers, which take photos of licence plates.

All three will be installed at the various locations identified by police, which will be clearly marked with signs indicating the cameras are in use.

A fourth type, speed cameras, have not been purchased and will not be installed in the initial phase of the CCTV project. Cayman’s Traffic Law would have to be changed before those devices could legally be used on local roads.

A finalised code of practice for the use of CCTV cameras has not yet been approved. The code, once complete, will instruct 911 centre operators and police on the proper and legal uses of the public cameras.