More CCTV cameras inside 911 centre

Gov’t is watching the watchers

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The people who are paid to keep an eye on the Cayman Islands closed-circuit television public surveillance system are themselves being watched by cameras that can view larger sections of their open office space.

Ministry of Home Affairs Chief Officer Eric Bush confirmed this week that a few new CCTV cameras have been installed inside the 911 Emergency Centre office building in George Town. Mr. Bush said the cameras are actually nothing new, centre employees have been aware that the devices are being used in the office for quite some time; they’ve just added “two or three” new cameras.

“[The 911 centre] is a higher security area than other office buildings,” Mr. Bush said. “We do have security cameras displayed prominently throughout the office space.”

Centre director Brent Finster elaborated: “The ability to see who was on duty and how the person carried out their duties can provide important evidence as to the conduct of the officers.   These cameras can also be used for the protection of employees.

The internal cameras now deployed are zoomed out to a 10 to 20 foot distance.  Therefore, they are not intrusive in terms of details.”

The centre does a lot more than just field phone calls and then forward information on the emergency situation to police, fire and ambulance services. More than 200 public surveillance cameras watching the streets throughout Grand Cayman are filtered back to the centre and monitored on a passive or “as needed” basis. In addition, the 911 officers keep watch on the police and prisons system electronic ankle monitors for criminal suspects.

Some reports were received by the Caymanian Compass earlier in the week that the new camera installation within the 911 centre was brought on by a harassment allegation against a staff member. However, Mr. Bush denied that the allegation led to the installation of new cameras.

Mr. Finster said that two complaints of harassment had been made in the centre within the past five years and that the installation of those devices was done for other reasons.

“I wouldn’t want to link the security cameras with [those allegations],” he said. “The 911 centre is a restricted area where only authorised individuals are allowed to go.”

The 911 centre is essentially ground zero for public surveillance in the Cayman Islands.

The official hand over of the first 224 CCTV public surveillance cameras to government was completed in late 2012. Those cameras have been 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 upcoming 2013/14 budget. 
Centre director Brent Finster has 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. 

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911 centre operators keep an eye on public CCTV cameras. Photo: File
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4 COMMENTS

  1. It is certainly sad that life of mankind would journey on these pathways; however we are in the beginning of a New World, so everyone is under suspicion It has been proven time and time again that we have to be watching our backs. For a good example please watch the Television Series 24hrs with Jack Bauer, if this does not open your eyes to the world we are living in then we are all blind.

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  2. So more CCTV camaras. This time on those locals who are the ones watching our every move, just in case they dont do anything out of the way. And just curious, who is it that are watching them???

    Since we have this uproar from the U.S. on drones and NSA leaks, the UK I suspect, will want to keep its OTs under social control. Like I said before, anyone who believes Cayman is a free democracy is dreaming.

    And just like they use the TERRORIST word as a front to spy on civilians, here, they use CRIME. Now not only are they hooking local officers up on lie-detection machines and flying hilocopeters over our home, they are installing over 200 to 300 CCTV camaras islandwide, and as peaceful as Cayman is, saying it will help fight our crime.

    I wont be surprise they have intercepted enough phone conversations here. All you need is to show them money and the phone companies will expose our privacy for the bait. If its happening in the US and UK, what make you think that we are not good for being tested on like gunea pigs.

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  3. If government is watching the watchers of 911, my question is, who is watching them?

    It comes down to the person who is watching and has no one looking over his or her shoulder. Suppose that person becomes corrupt or is corrupt, or has special interest backing him or her, who then will be watching this person?

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