Premier Andrew Fahie, right, last Thursday signed a $411,000 contract to rebuild the CCTV system that was destroyed during the 2017 hurricanes. (Photo: PROVIDED)

Last Thursday, Premier Andrew Fahie signed a $411,000 contract with FLOW to restore the CCTV system that was destroyed during the hurricanes of 2017, Police Information Officer Diane Drayton announced on Friday.

Project funds obtained from the Caribbean Development Bank were matched by “capital expenditures” from the government, according to Ms. Drayton.

She did not provide a timeline for the system’s construction, though she said that “works will commence shortly to install a dedicated fibre network for the system through the territory.”

The project will “expand on [the] previous surveillance system, providing a more reliable, resilient coverage [that will be] less vulnerable to disaster,” she stated.

Beyond its importance as a crime-fighting tool, the surveillance system will also be a boon to neighbourhood watch groups and serve as a deterrent against littering, according to the premier.

“From District One to Nine, we see stoves, even refrigerators, outside bins,” Mr. Fahie said.

“Persons would never know how many times government has [to] clean up around these dumps. It is only a minority of persons that are guilty of this, but it is a growing trend and it reflects badly on all of us. This [project] will help us tremendously in identifying the culprits.”

Surveillance history

Even before hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the territory in 2017, government and police had struggled to employ the previous surveillance system as an effective policing tool.

Government signed a $306,682 contract in February 2012 with a company called Electronic Solutions to place the cameras in strategic locations around the territory, but it wasn’t until a year later that the House of Assembly introduced the legal framework necessary for the evidence collected by the system to be admissible in court.

Without such laws in place, footage captured on film could not be used in criminal proceedings, then-Police Commissioner David Morris said in the 2013 deliberations of the Standing Finance Committee.

In March 2014, then-Governor Boyd McCleary signed the Surveillance Devices Act 2013, allowing for the system to be fully operational.

But four months after Mr. McCleary signed that law, many of the 16 cameras did not have required signage explaining that they were working cameras operated by the police, raising fresh legal questions of whether the captured footage would suffice in court.

In July of that year, Mr. Morris said the cameras had not led to a single arrest in the four months they had been operational.

Hurricane Irma

The surveillance system suffered a fresh blow when Hurricane Irma devastated the territory in September 2017.

In January 2018 many of the territory’s police stations still looked much as they did the day after the hurricane, with their cameras damaged and doors hanging off the hinges, then-Police Commissioner Michael Matthews told the Beacon that month.

With new UK funding, Mr. Matthews said at the time that he hoped to establish a new radio and CCTV network by the following March.