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EDITORIAL: Fight crime with cameras

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Fight crime with cameras

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EARLIER THIS WEEK the Royal Barbados Police Force received a gift of Segway “personal transporters” from the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association (BHTA) to be used to improve patrols particularly in areas of the South Coast frequented by tourists.

That kind of gift has immense value because while a police patrol might be intended to make tourists feel safer, their presence will have the same impact on residents and should therefore serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

The gift of the Segway transporters also ought to remind our policymakers too that in these times, it is absolutely important that we spend sensibly. In modern Barbados one of the highest costs of doing business relates to labour, a reality that should force us always to follow the maxim that speaks to the importance of working smarter rather than harder.

Particularly since Cricket World Cup was held in Barbados in 2007, our security policymakers and planners have been relying more heavily on technology as opposed to naked manpower. Government has spent considerable sums on transportation, surveillance and communication equipment for the police force, as well as the army and other protective agencies.

We believe that if we are to ensure the safety and security of our citizens and guests to our shores we need to place even greater reliance on the use of technology.

Some years ago the BHTA assisted authorities in the setting up of cameras and accompanying surveillance systems in certain public spaces, and this week announced it was preparing to make a further donation to this exercise. The Government should go much further.

Since our two major telecommunications players, Flow and Digicel, have not been shy in boasting about their success in covering the entire island with fibre optic cable, the extensive, islandwide use of security cameras monitored by police cannot be a difficult technical proposition.

We are sure the crime fighting as well as deterrence capacity of the police force would be enhanced if the entire length of Highway 1 and Highway 7, as well as Bridgetown were given priority treatment for such a system. That would cover all the way from Speightstown in the north to the Grantley Adams International Airport in the south. Add to that heavy commercial areas such as Warrens, Wildey and every major tourist spot, including the Ermie Bourne Highway, Bathsheba and Cherry Tree Hill.

Some would have concerns about that level of surveillance but once strict protocols are implemented fears of misuse of collected data should be minimised. After all, Barbadians travel to many of the world’s metropolitan centres where cameras are everywhere and it does not curtail their activities in any way.

Additionally, once cameras can see no more than what the average person in the same location would take in, then any expectation of “privacy” beyond that while in public would be misplaced.

Short of the discovery of mammoth quantities of oil or some precious metal, Barbados is unlikely in the future to be able to afford the size of public service that we took for granted in the past. This will have implications for the size of our police force.

The sensible use of modern technology would give the required edge in policing and securing the country. That would hardly be as expensive as the recurring expense associated with bloated labour portfolios.