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Feb 4, 2008

Installation of surveillance camera begins in city

Story PictureThey operate in urban areas all over the world with a fair amount of success … but can surveillance cameras in Belize City help fight crime? Or will they go the way of previous high profile police initiatives like breathalyzers and radar guns? News Five’s Janelle Chanona reports.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
As part of the initial phase of a city-wide security initiative by the Belize Police Department, this morning the first of six surveillance cameras was installed near the Pound Yard Bridge.

Supt. Edward Broaster, O.C. Patrol Branch
“Witnesses are refusing to testify and some recant their testimonies and other problems that we are facing in the courts, we believe that the surveillance camera in the streets will serve as a deterrent one in preventing crime and as well to detect and secure convictions because the cameras will not be scared by the criminals. Because when we get recording data and present it to court, it will be irrefutable.”

Janelle Chanona
“Because the camera is in this area do you think the crime will move to another area?”

Edward Broaster
“Well right now the six that we are installing are not necessarily covering hotspots, they are covering strategic locations that we’ve identified in terms of detecting where criminals are fleeing or busy areas so that we can have at least equipment covering the area and then we put police personnel in other area having stationary mobile in other areas ready to respond to reports or any breach of the law.”

The other cameras will be located at the Belcan Roundabout, at the junction of Faber’s Road and Central American Boulevard, at the corner of Haynes and Kraal Road, in the George and West Street area and at the Bel China Bridge. The footage will travel by fiber optic cable to a command center at the Raccoon Street Police Station. According to Superintendent Edward Broaster, as part of the program, up to ninety six additional units will be set up across the old capital. But is the public ready for big brother?

Mark Anderson, BTL Technician
“We dah wah people of culture, we no like changes to that extent right so bring in the changes and let us know that this thing will be installed and we could prepare ourselves for it through education.”

Ramon Galvez, Businessman
“Eena certain areas, it would definitely help to deter crime no? I noh know how long they wah survive deh, people could destroy deh or so. They have to put laws to for the protection of the cameras if they see anybody deh fass wid deh haffu put wah penalty to do it cause you know how Belize go.”

Nino Vapiro, Security Camera Consultant
“In our experience doing this, in any country we’ll find maybe one or two people maybe incidents of attacking the camera, but very little, people are afraid of that. This is a low maintenance equipment, low expensive maintenance equipment, very, very low. Because the black bowl that we mention, it’s sealed so you may be maintaining this equipment every two or three months.”

Ruth Castillo, Area Resident
“If it’s going to be mainly for the criminals, then fine but for regular citizens will it be an intrusion into their personal lives? I don’t know, I don’t know. I guess I just have to watch and see if its going to make a difference in so far as crime is concerned then fine. But if it’s just there for a show then I don’t know if I really want a camera to be focussing on my everyday movements and activities.”

Edward Broaster
“We have addressed that concern by saying look, you are in the public, whatever happens in the public is for everyone to see. So for another eye in the sky as it’s called, to see what you are doing, as long as you are not doing anything illegal then you have nothing to worry about, the cameras are there to protect us. So the issue of privacy is a dead issue, a non-issue.”

Janelle Chanona
“And only the police would have access to the video footage?”

Edward Broaster
“Initially only police would have access to the footage but we’re looking at other law enforcement agencies like the Department of Transport, Customs, Immigration, the Fire Department, the Coast Guards who will be having access to the data and to the surveillance camera in the near future.”

While a statutory instrument has been signed to allow video footage as evidence, the memorandum of understanding to share the data has not been finalized. Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

Cost of phase one of the surveillance project, which includes the first six cameras and the all important communications centre, is around seven hundred thousand dollars.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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