PM, businesses to partner on CCTV cameras

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Prime Minister speaks at Conversations with the Prime Minister at
Exodus panyard in Tunapuna on Tuesday night. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

THE Prime Minister on Tuesday night welcomed an offer to partner with local businessmen to set up CCTV cameras to curb crime nationwide.

Dr. Rowley was speaking at a session of Conversations with the Prime Minister at Tunapuna.

Tunapuna Police Station Community Council president Neil Boodoosingh, in the open-mike session, said his group had formed a partnership between the police service and local businesses.

“We installed close to 150 cameras. As a matter of fact, we are looking at you right now. We have eyes on you. I wouldn’t disclose where those cameras are, but we have Tunapuna covered.”

Boodoosingh said business people and the community council had fully funded this programme.

“We have equipped a room at the Tunapuna (Police) Station whereby we have monitoring screens and in real-time, we are seeing what is happening in Tunapuna.” He said the programme had helped the police to solve many crimes.

“Since then, I have received many calls – San Juan Business Association, Couva Chamber, people in Chaguanas – and they are all calling out for this programme to reach by them.”

He said the police service has endorsed the programme. He said 400 businesses pay a monthly maintenance fee, so if a camera goes down, it quickly gets back up.

Boodoosingh said the programme gave an intimate look at local business areas, while the police cameras looked more broadly at traffic junctions and road routes.

He hoped the Tunapuna measure could be expanded nationally and run in each of the nine police divisions.

Boodoosingh said, “Mr. Prime Minister, I am asking you to have an audience with us. “I, myself and my council, we are prepared to work with you, to work under the National Security Council, and make this a reality nationwide.”

In response, Dr. Rowley thanked Boodoosingh and his group for their intervention and initiative.

“This is a situation where we move from keeping score to actually doing something about it and I suspect when we look at the numbers and the cost that your operation would be considerably cheaper than the State’s operation.”

He said the State’s move to install CCTV cameras nationwide was very costly.

When tenders were put out for 1,200 CCTV cameras to be installed, Rowley said TSTT proposed a $330 million contract.

The other main bid cost $80 million and that bid was successful, he said.

He said the most recent information he had was that the project was two weeks away from completion.

But he said Boodoosingh’s proposal would be far less expensive.

“I am glad you are saying we can combine the effort because clearly your effort, how many cameras you have and how much coverage you have, would not be anywhere in the ballpark of what the government pays to run 1,000 cameras.

“Even when the government pays that kind of money – because TSTT has the government in court now for a claim that the government is fighting for cameras that were so good that a head was found below a light post in Port of Spain, a human head that somebody put there because the person did not walk away and leave it there.

“That was under a camera but the camera was so camera that you couldn’t tell who put down the head there but we were paying over a $1,000 a month for a camera.” He said he was delighted by Boodoosingh’s proposal and on board with it.

Project Eagle Eye was launched in Tunapuna in early March. It saw the installation of about 100 CCTV cameras, funded and maintained by the Greater Tunapuna Chamber of Industry and Commerce and the Tunapuna Police Station.

The chamber and police formed a crime watch group called the Tunapuna Police Station Community Council.

Boodoosingh, speaking at the launch of Eagle Eye in March, said the 97 cameras cost over $400,000. He said businesses would be required to pay a monthly maintenance fee based on the size of their operations.

The system is monitored in a control room at the Tunapuna Police station by a team of four officers on a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week basis.