CCTV did not catch North Side burglars

North Side resident John Smith talks with Deputy Area Commander Christopher Richards while Rhoda Smith makes a point to Sergeant Davis Scott at Thursday night’s district meeting. – Photo: Carol Winker

Police officers told North Side residents last week that closed-circuit television cameras on the streets of the district had failed to capture useful images of burglars who had broken into a home in mid-March.

At a public meeting on Thursday night, residents heard that CCTV cameras were able to provide good images during the day, but not at night.

Asked specifically about a burglary in the Rum Point area during the early hours of Saturday, March 19, Sergeant Davis Scott said officers reviewed tapes from the camera system, but they were of poor quality. “We tried to track [traffic movement] but we couldn’t get good images,” he said.

Mr. Scott was accompanied by Deputy Commander for the Eastern Districts Chris Richards. Mr. Richards explained that the problem had to do with the infrared capabilities of the cameras. He said that image resolution at night was not good because of poor lighting.

A member of the audience pointed out that the cameras are not the direct responsibility of the police. The system is a responsibility of the Security Centre and police can only request updates or repairs, he said.

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District MLA Ezzard Miller said North Side had raised funds for a camera system years ago, but that system was replaced by government. Then Finance Committee had voted “a couple of million dollars” to upgrade the cameras. To have them working from time to time was not good enough, he said.

The meeting, held at the Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre, was called by the North Side District Council as its regular monthly meeting. The first topic was policing, or as Mr. Miller put it, “lack thereof.”

When there were fewer than 200 officers on the police force, North Side had three, Mr. Miller pointed out. They worked in the district and got familiar with the people. “Now, the more police we get, the fewer there are in the [eastern] districts,” he said.

He also noted that there have been at least five area commanders for the eastern districts since 2009. “Every time we get somebody who seems interested, the chief finds a way to move him,” the MLA asserted.

He said he had been given the excuse that North Side does not have much crime: “We say North Side wants police as a deterrent.”

He welcomed back Mr. Scott, who was a resident officer in the district 30 years ago, knew the people and was respected by them. Mr. Scott had since retired, but was brought back to active duty to head a proactive, high-visibility patrol team for North Side, East End and Bodden Town.

Mr. Miller appreciated the effort, but added, “I don’t know what to do to get police in the station,” a reference to the refurbished police station near the junction of North Side Road and Hutland Road.

Private members’ motion

These problems were part of why East End MLA Arden McLean and he had brought a private members’ motion asking for a “lack of confidence” vote in the management and governance of the police service, he said. He emphasized that the motion does not specifically refer to Police Commissioner David Baines.

Mr. Miller referred to the U.K. system of local policing authorities and said Cayman should have a similar authority, with representatives from each district to set policy and make sure police understand the crime that is going on in the various communities.

The police budget for 2015 was $34.9 million, he noted. For 2016, $35.3 million has been budgeted, he said.

Mr. Miller said he regretted hearing that government will not attend the emergency meeting of the Legislative Assembly called for April 13. He said Speaker of the House Juliana O’Connor-Connolly had made the decision to call the special meeting to deal with two items of business, including the police motion. “I can promise you – any time the Speaker summons me, I will be there,” he told his constituents.

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