Jamaica launches national CCTV system

Jamaica Observer:  

JAMAICA now has an integrated network of CCTV (closed-circuit television) system that will not only monitor public spaces islandwide, but is expected to play a major role in the country’s fight against crime.

Under the National Closed-Circuit Television Surveillance Programme, dubbed ‘JamaicaEye’, which was launched yesterday, citizens and business owners with cameras pointing in the public space will be able to voluntarily input their feeds into the national system.

The national CCTV system, which is being launched with 180 government cameras in May Pen, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Mandeville and Kingston, will not only address crime but will also assist the authorities to deal with natural disasters, public safety and incident management.

There will also be five monitoring centres, while one control centre will be at the Jamaica Defence Force headquarters and another is to be established at the police commissioner’s office.

Speaking at the launch yesterday at the National Sports Indoor Centre in Kingston, an elated National Security MSpeaking at the launch yesterday at the National Sports Indoor Centre in Kingston, an elated National Security Minister Robert Montague described the initiative as “exceptional” and “game-changing”.

He, however, stressed the importance of public participation in the programme, noting that this was a prime opportunity for citizens to help in the fight against crime, which he said is a multidimensional social problem that requires the participation of all citizens irrespective of religion, class, creed or political affiliation.

“The private-public partnership is a platform for all of us to treat with our crime problem. So I again urge the churches, citizens’ associations, social clubs, and business owners to purchase CCTV systems and help us to help you,” he said.

“Can you imagine if every neighbourhood watch or citizens’ association buys a CCTV system and puts them at the exit and entrance of their communities?” the minister asked.

He also implored citizens and business owners who currently have digitised cameras to give permission for their feeds to be used by signing up on the JamaicaEye website. Persons will also be able to send in relevant videos pertaining to crime or public safety to the centres.

In urging citizens to come on board, Minister Montague indicated that his ministry would be negotiating with the Ministry of Finance to have GCT, import duties and SCT waived for a limited time, to allow more people to purchase CCTVs but they must place their cameras in the JamaicaEye system.

Added Montague: “It is not the size of the contribution that matters here but rather the decision to assist in a national initiative to fight crime. We believe that the JamaicaEye Initiative is the thread that will tie our crime reduction strategy together.”

According to the minister, his ministry is aiming to secure 800 feeds now and to expand over time.

“When something happens we will query the system and find the answers. Where there are no public cameras we will place Government cameras and the more feeds we get, the more it will serve as a force multiplier in the context of an undermanned JCF, which is currently operating about 3,000 police officers short,” he added.

Further to that, the minister said that the advancement in digital technology through the JamaicaEye Initiative will allow the police to cover more areas.

Also, he said the video feed will be filtered through software that will allow for facial recognition, which will help with fugitive capture; criminal prosecution; licence plate readings; geo-fencing; and crowd counting.

Montague assured citizens that their feeds will be handled by personnel with the highest integrity.

“Everyone working at the control centre has already been vetted at the highest level. Every activity in the control centre will be recorded and therefore can be audited,” he said. “At the five monitoring centres they can observe but cannot change anything.”

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of National Security Dianne McIntosh, in her remarks, implored Jamaicans to invest in the use of CCTV systems to monitor public spaces around their homes and businesses, noting that it would be a worthwhile investment in their personal security and that of their family and property.

She also encouraged individuals not to harbour fears about video surveillance as it helps to reduce crime and in making persons feel safer.

Heads of the security forces and representatives from the private sector endorsed the programme.

Chief of Defence Staff Major General Rocky Meade pledged the Jamaica Defence Force’s continued involvement in providing technical and leadership support, as well as monitoring of the resources.

“This programme will help in increasing awareness of our domain and if we can tackle even the petty crimes that are committed, we will go a far way in solving some of the larger crimes, “ he said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Selvin Hay, who represented Acting Commissioner Clifford Blake, said the CCTV programme was very timely and critical and not only symbolised a valuable and tangible public private partnership but was also a valuable weapon in the arsenal needed to fight crime.

“When utilised effectively it serves as a deterrent to crime as well as a reliable investigative aid. Not only is it useful as it captures crime, it is extensively used to outline the victim’s movements, corroborate witness statements or refute accounts given by suspects,” he said.

Hay said the programme would also change the environment in which crime occurs and one in which the police operate, as officers will be more alert and professional in their conduct.

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