Crime fight demands more 'eyes'

Time for a a Public Surveillance Act


Friday, October 19, 2018

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The anti-crime programme in the way of zones of special operations (ZOSO) and other extension of emergency measures by the Government has made a positive impact. This is evident by the significant numbers of firearms that have been recovered within the areas of the anti-crime initiative.

Notwithstanding the parliamentary Opposition's call, through its spokesperson on national security, that the anti-crime measures are now losing their sting, the Government cannot afford to relent. Indeed, what is required is to capitalise on the gains achieved by improving upon the methodology of these programmes.

Of significance in this regard is the JamaicaEye initiative — a programme geared towards islandwide surveillance coverage through a network of cameras in public spaces. Currently, the operation and success of this programme is contingent on the voluntary participation of citizens. However, what is required for the programme to be fully effective is a mandatory scheme in the way of legislation for operators of certain types and volume of businesses to have cameras of certain specification outfitted in areas of egress on their premises. The current climate in which the Brandon Murrays, the Ramdials and other individuals of far less national fame are murdered in public spaces close to business enterprises requires the anti-crime programme to include the implementation of a Public Surveillance Act.

Certain business operators, based on their classification, would be obliged to have cameras, and non-compliance with this requirement would result in a fine being imposed. Under such a scheme, business operators could also benefit from a tax break in respect of the acquisition of such cameras. These cameras would automatically feed into the Government's surveillance network. In effect, it would be the actualisation of the theme of George Orwell's epic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which 'Big Brother' would be watching us all.

There is merit in this, after all, if Jamaica is to achieve its vision as the place of choice to live, raise a family, and do business. The conventional approach of highlighting problems without constructive solutions must cease.

Peter Champagnie is an attorney-at-law and justice of the peace.

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