Let the eyes see them
Locals are encouraged to have their surveillance cameras feed into the national JamaicaEye programme.

When Jamaica gained Independence in 1962, the murder rate was 3.9 per 100,000 inhabitants, one of the lowest in the world. In 2005 Jamaica had 1,674 murders, with a murder rate of 58 per 100,000 people. This meant we had the highest murder rate in the world.

In November 2008 Parliament voted to retain the death penalty, which is performed by hanging. But has this helped?

In 2009 Jamaica responded by committing 1,680 murders. Between 2009 and 2021, about 17,207 murders have been recorded. This official number may be incomplete; however, hundreds of Jamaicans go "missing" every year. In 2021, 2,142 were deemed "missing" and remained "missing".

As crime continues to pay well in Jamaica, that industry has reached an impressive level of sophistication. Similarly impressive sophistication will be needed to move $10 million around in public. I thought everybody, especially the seasoned security companies, knew this.

The recent tragedy in Portmore Pines, St Catherine, in which at least one security guard lost his life has forced me to unburden myself: Why, with the crippling effects that crime is having on our country, are the criminal hot spots and all commercial areas not blanketed with closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras?

Security technology has grown exponentially over the past few decades, with almost one billion CCTV cameras used globally today. These cameras are now a common sight in both residential and commercial properties. And are one of the essential elements in modern security systems.

The UK is one of the most enthusiastic proponents, with an estimated 1.9 million cameras in 2011 -- one for every 32 residents. Oakland, California, took $7 million of federal money intended for safeguarding its port and used it to create a citywide surveillance system instead.

Industry estimates in 2008 predicted that the global video surveillance market was expected to grow from US$11.5 billion to US$37.7 billion in 2015. That figure was quickly surpassed. A New York Times/CBS poll found that 78 per cent of respondents supported the use of surveillance cameras in public places and authorities point to spectacular successes. For example, crucial images came from CCTV footage of Boston Marathon bombing suspects and the 2005 London attacks.

Three of the ways that investigators of this Portmore Pines tragedy could have benefited from the existence of a quality business security camera system are:

1) They provide hard evidence. Confirmation of the build, clothing and getaway vehicle are readily confirmed with footage; no guesswork or tips needed.

2) Security cameras help corroborate other types of evidence.

3) Security cameras provide consistent, 24/7 surveillance.

One study in Texas found that surveillance camera footage was used in 86 of the 90 murder cases that occurred in the jurisdiction over the course of that year.

The naysayers among us will inevitably introduce perceived problems like the cost of maintenance. In general, security cameras are not high energy consumers, as other gadgets like computers or toasters.

It may be a good idea to share the risk with your insurers. The installation of a high-quality security surveillance system would significantly reduce the cost of your insurance.

The costs associated with the acquisition, installation and maintenance of these units in commercial areas should not be the responsibility of the Government. Business people should be required to include this in the cost of doing business. Experts should be used to survey the building and surroundings and design tailored security solutions. Many of the cameras I see at businessplaces are installed in a way to protect the business only, not the customer. This should be unacceptable.

There are two primary operational uses for CCTV security cameras: To deter and to secure. They are effective as a deterrent by being a visible presence reminding criminals that they are seen by security personnel monitoring the live footage. Security officials can observe a few different spaces at once and can therefore respond promptly should an incident occur. Additionally, the footage can be used as evidence if an incident occurs.

A systematic review conducted by the UK College of Policing verified that CCTV can make a notable impact on local and national crime rates, with the exception of violent crime. The study concluded that car parks that deployed CCTV cameras saw a decrease in vehicle crime of up to 51 per cent.

I think it is time we stop talking and do something. Support JamaicaEye.

Glenn Tucker is an educator and a sociologist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or glenntucker2011@gmail.com.

Glenn Tucker

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