Plans to expand upon the Cayman Islands’ closed-circuit television public monitoring system will likely cost in the range of an additional $3 million to $4 million, officials confirmed earlier this month.
Given the government’s financial situation, Eric Bush, chief officer of the government’s Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, said funding for the project may be scarce in the current budget year.
“To be fair to government, we haven’t asked for the money yet,” Mr. Bush said.
New cameras – including speed cameras and red light cameras – are likely to increase the cost of the CCTV system being used in Grand Cayman and which has also been planned for installation in Cayman Brac. The original installation of 243 cameras in phase one of the project cost around $2.25 million. The initial master plan for the CCTV build out did not include the use of red light cameras.
Some $800,000 in funding for the second stage build out of the Cayman Islands public CCTV surveillance system was left on the cutting room floor in the current 2012/13 budget.
Mr. Bush said an ongoing evaluation of the existing cameras would be done to determine if there are any “blind spots” in the system, particularly in central George Town. He said some cameras could be shifted from their current location, depending on what the review finds.
However, no new cameras will be purchased until at least the latter part of 2013, he said.
The official hand over of the first 224 CCTV cameras occurred earlier this year. Those cameras are now transmitting images back to the 911 Emergency Communications Centre in George Town. The images are “passively monitored” by centre personnel, meaning when police, fire or ambulance services receive a call the cameras can be zeroed in on the area to assist first responders.
When the system is fully installed, officers at the police stations in George Town, West Bay and Bodden Town will be able to review CCTV footage at those stations, but they won’t be able to manipulate the cameras or change the viewing angles. That can only be done within the 911 centre.
Police must make specific requests to obtain copies of video taken from the cameras or still photos captured by automatic number plate recognition cameras.
The government still hopes the expansion of the CCTV system can be accomplished, perhaps in the 2013/14 budget.
In April, 911 centre director Brent Finster said the budget for the 2012/13 year was to be $800,000. Some $2 million was spent on the installation of the first stage of the project. Yearly maintenance and ancillary costs for CCTV are expected to be about $300,000.
“It was agreed earlier that cameras in certain areas of George Town and West Bay Road would be kept sparse because the private sector would be expected to help [in those areas],” Mr. Finster said.
If government project planners can find the money for phase two of the CCTV public surveillance project, it will include what are known as “red light cameras”. These are devices that automatically take pictures of vehicles who enter an intersection on a red light and can issue tickets automatically based on the registered licence plate that is photographed or recorded.
The proposed red light cameras, which presumably would be used only at the handful of stoplights around Grand Cayman, are a proposed addition to the CCTV phase two build out. The government had already made plans to put in additional CCTV cameras, as well as install new “speed cameras” or traffic enforcement cameras.
However, the speed cameras were not legal under the previous versions of the Cayman Islands Traffic Law. Revisions that took effect earlier this year now allow for the traffic enforcement cameras and for the computerised issuance of traffic citations.
“Now we just need to buy the ‘brain’ for it and buy the cameras,” Mr. Bush said.
The idea for the speed cameras, which can either be fixed or mobile, depending on how the system is designed, is to use them to automatically issue speeding citations working with the existing licence database maintained by the Department of Vehicle and Drivers’ Licensing.
“The same system could also be used for fines for not paying your licence tag on time, if your insurance has lapsed,” said Wesley Howell with the government Portfolio of Internal and External Affairs, which has oversight responsibility for security and public safety.
“It could e-mail the ticket to you, tweet it to you,” Mr. Bush added.
The proposed red light cameras would do the same, but they would only be mounted at red light intersections, Mr. Howell said.
Both types of cameras would likely have to operate from separate “pods” than where the CCTV system’s existing fixed, pan-tilt-zoom and automated number plate readers are located.
The police service already has mobile trailers that show the speed of drivers passing by and to which speed cameras may be affixed.