One year on
Promised CCTV cameras still to be installed By Nigel Williams
Stabroek News
December 12, 2006

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One year after government had promised to install Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras at specific locations to aid in the police fight against crime, the nation is still awaiting the realization of this, even as there is no clear indication as to whether such a project is being undertaken.

US trained Criminologist, Errol Vannooten believes that such an initiative should be given serious consideration by the administration as it could help detect and prevent some of the crimes being committed in the city and other places today. Armed robberies have soared throughout the year and despite heightened police presence in the city, bandits continue to plunder businesses and rob citizens and escape.

Only two weeks ago, a jeweller, Ashmini Doodnauth was shot in her neck in front of her Kiity home by one of three bandits.

The woman succumbed at the hospital on Wednesday evening. There have been several other sensational robberies as well as murders in Georgetown.

Vannooten told Stabroek News that with a sharp increase in armed robberies in the city and other parts of the country as the Christmas season advances, surveillance cameras could prove very helpful in snaring some of the criminals.

It was at the height of a crime spree last year August that government announced that it was purchasing CCTV cameras for the police force.

Former Home Affairs Minister, Gail Teixeira had told this newspaper last year November that by the end of that year the cameras would have been in place, but when contacted for an update on the project this week no one at the Home Affairs Ministry or the Police Force was able to shed any light.

During a flare-up in violent crimes, especially armed robberies to the end of last year, President Bharrat Jagdeo had announced the allocation of $50M, which was to purchase among other things surveillance cameras to aid in crime fighting. The announcement of the allocation of the funds came at a time when there was an outcry from the public with regard to the police inability to stop the daily robberies.

According to a Govern-ment Information Agency (GINA) bulletin issued then, the equipment would have been in place shortly. Teixeira when approached last year for a comment said the technical people were still working on what type of cameras would be used among other things. She had anticipated however that the process would be completed by the end of last year.

The minister did not say where the cameras would be installed, but gave the assurance that the matter was high on government's agenda for the police force.

A senior police officer had told Stabroek News that some work was being done for the surveillance cameras to be installed by the police.

Government had also announced during the same period that $29M would be used to source a Rapid Intervention vehicle as well as two bullet-proof vehicles. It is not clear whether the bullet-proof vehicle now being used by the police was purchased with the $29M. The Rapid Intervention and bullet-proof vehicles were to have been purchased from Mahindra and Mahindra Limited, a company based in India and one of the leading manufacturers of military multi-utility vehicles.

Speaking to Stabroek News on Friday, Vannooten said that in the more developed countries surveillance cameras have proven to be very effective, especially when they are installed secretly. He said its value was immeasurable.

"That is a permanent policeman who never gets tired, who would not go to sleep and who is on duty 24 hours a day," Vannooten declared.

According to the criminologist after the September 11 terrorist attack in the US, there has been an increase in the use of CCTV cameras in public places. He said that he would recommend that such cameras be installed in crime-prone areas and those that are susceptible to robberies and other criminal acts. London underground cameras were able to catch on tape four suicide bombers who attacked several stations last year.

Vannooten said that if criminals were aware that a camera was looking at their activities they would desist from committing crimes in that particular area and if they were not certain whether a camera was looking at them they would not take the chance. "So in either way you are deterring criminal activities," Vannooten said.

He said he was not aware of any moves to have surveillance cameras installed in the city.

A number of businesses had installed cameras on their premises last year following the rash in armed robberies, but experts had told this newspaper that some of the cameras were of inferior quality. When US national Daniel Thompson was bludgeoned to death in his hotel room at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel, the hotel's surveillance camera had captured a suspect but the image was blurred and had to be sent to the US to be developed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Over recent years, surveillance cameras have proven very successful at commercial banks since on numerous occasions persons were detected withdrawing cash from other persons' accounts at the ATM machines. Almost all of the ATM machines at the banks are equipped with CCTV cameras.

However, it is not clear whether other machines that are away from the banks have these cameras.