Closed-circuit television cameras will be going up around Grand Cayman during the next several weeks, with installations taking place on almost a daily basis, government officials in charge of the project said.
The camera coverage will reach at least some areas in all five districts of Cayman’s largest island. Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs managers are shooting for completion of the installation and testing by August of September.
“Once we have the cameras installed, tested and signed off, we will publicise the locations,” said portfolio Deputy Chief Officer Eric Bush late last month, “albeit, they will be readily visible to all once installed.”
The first “pod” of cameras went up at the intersection of Walkers Road and Academy Way, near the University College of the Cayman Islands campus on 7 June. Generally, several cameras are installed at each “pod” location … allowing the devices to look in different directions along the public right of way.
More than 160 CCTV cameras will be going up at 60 different locations around Grand Cayman, according to officials with the government Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs.
A second phase for the cameras, that will include the remainder of the Grand Cayman surveillance locations and some in Cayman Brac, will be bid out later this year.
“We hope to release the tender for phase 2 [of CCTV] in the next few months,” Mr. Bush said.
The installation process has been delayed months from its initial planned start date of March, but Mr. Eric Bush has said the cameras should start working once they are installed at their respective locations.
The cameras will only monitor public areas and will not be allowed to be used on private property, Mr. Bush said. Many properties, including Grand Cayman businesses, already have their own private CCTV surveillance systems which are utilised by police to assist in the investigation of crime.
Cayman has set aside about $300,000 for the insurance and general upkeep of the cameras which includes anything from fixing and replacing the devices if they are destroyed to routine wiping of CCTV camera lenses.
Those costs are separate from an estimated $800,000 being spent to purchase additional cameras for the system – the phase 2 of the project – which is eventually expected to cover all of Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.
According to documents obtained by the Caymanian Compass, a CCTV infrastructure lease for the use of Caribbean Utilities power poles and “dark fibre” to electronically transmit CCTV images from cameras to storage will cost $100,000 per year.
The government can transmit that data 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.
To obtain that, CUC had to apply for a telecommunications licence with the government-appointed regulator, the Information and Communications Technology Authority, and it must pay 6 per cent of its yearly earnings from the CCTV data transmissions to the authority in licensing fees.
Mr. Bush said 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.
A CCTV system maintenance contract has also been awarded to The Security Centre Company and will cost an estimated $100,000 per year over the next five years, according to budget documents. An additional $25,000 per year will be paid for cameras, signs, monitors and any items that sustain damage not covered under the maintenance or warranty for the devices.
Insurance and warranties for the system will cost approximately $80,000 per year.
The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission pointed out last year that there is no law governing the use of electronic surveillance in public areas.
In its budget for the fiscal year that started on 1 July, there is a proposal for a Public Surveillance Law, but no details for that bill have been provided.
The lack of legislation or an accepted code of practice for the use of CCTV cameras is one that has caused human rights officials some concern.
In a statement sent to the Caymanian Compass, the commission – which includes a former attorney general, a managing partner at Campbells law firm, and a former member of the team that negotiated Cayman’s Constitution with the UK – said a code of practice for the public CCTV is simply not enough.
“The Cayman Islands government should not operate CCTV cameras in the public right of way without binding primary legislation … in conjunction with a code of practice,” read a two-page letter sent in response to the newspaper’s questions by HRC Chairman Richard Coles. “It is the perspective of the HRC that a code of practice seeks to guide operators with respect to acting in accordance with obligations mandated by law. For this reason, a code of practice is not a valid substitute for a binding and enforceable law.”
The commission indicated it could not fully respond to questions about what would occur if CCTV evidence taken in a public right of way was used in court without governing legislation, stating that the attorney general’s office would have to determine those procedures.
In August 2010, the commission sent a lengthy response to initial proposals for a CCTV code of practice. Mr. Coles said the government portfolio directing the project has acknowledged receiving that letter, but that it has not yet responded to any of the commission’s concerns, including the development of a law to govern CCTV.
“The HRC … is currently unaware as to the time line proposed by government for releasing the [code of practice] in the public arena,” Mr. Coles wrote. “Operating the CCTV system without a publicly available code of practice (passed by Cabinet) would generally not be considered a best practice or indicative of good governance. The absence of even a code of guidance will make accountability extremely difficult.”