The police force will now have a direct feed from Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras installed in the city following approval by the Defence Board.
This was disclosed yesterday by Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee. He told a gathering of civil society and the media at the Police Training Centre, Eve Leary that as a member of the Defence Board, the ministry had constantly supported the view that CCTV cameras in the city should be used on a real- time basis to fight crime.
In furtherance of this, he said that the Defence Board has approved the setting up of a direct feed to the Headquarters of the police force at Eve Leary. Since their installation several years ago, critics have queried the usefulness of these cameras as no information has been forthcoming on who is actually in charge of them or monitoring them.
It is believed that the CCTV feed is going to the shadowy national intelligence centre in the same compound with Castellani House but the government has been mum on this. It has not said who is in charge of the centre, who it is answerable to and what is actually being done with the feed. In several high-profile murders, members of the public have asked why the feed has not been used to track down criminals. In one case of the killing of a cop, the cameras appeared not to have been properly positioned. There are also lingering question as to whether they are functioning properly.
On July 17 last year at a press conference, the police had signalled their interest in having live access to the images for the crime fight. Crime Chief and Deputy Commissioner Seelall Persaud told the media that steps were being taken to access live images from the cameras.
“[The] feed is going to an organisation other than the police but there are efforts now in place to give the police a feed… it falls under the Office of the President. I think it is an organisation in the making… we have access (to the images) by request,” Persaud said.
Persaud had also said that camera surveillance should be expanded. “The ones here, I think it is a programme that needs to be expanded. It has helped in some incidences of crime, it has helped a whole lot in traffic investigations … there is need to expand it and there is [an] effort right now to have feeds directly to the police so that we can independently research and use what evidence is collected there,” he said.
Rohee also signalled yesterday that cyber security has been beefed up with the establishment of a specialized unit.
Rohee said: “The Ministry of Home Affairs recognizes the importance of the Internet and computer security to the welfare of citizens, national security and economic well-being of the country, since many of our citizens, businesses and Government Agencies are now connected to the Internet and are using information technology to provide goods and services, pursue educational opportunities, conduct business and maintain social contacts around the world.
“It is in this regard that the Ministry sought and received Cabinet’s approval for the establishment of a National Computer Incidents Response Team (NCIRT). On August 2, 2013 the CIRT Unit commenced its operations and is tasked with ‘improving the cyber security preparedness and response of the Government of Guyana through proactive security measures and information sharing mechanisms.’
“Thus far this Unit has been provided with local and overseas training in the development of capabilities in cyber security incident handling. In 2014 the CIRT will expand its activities by providing a wider range of services for Government Agencies, the business community and citizens at large.”
The Home Affairs Minister, who has come in for scathing criticism from the opposition over his performance, also announced yesterday that permission had been granted for the hiring of data entry clerks to “civilianize” certain parts of the security force. The government and police force had been long advised to hand these jobs over to civilians so that it would free up police men and women for enforcement functions.
In this regard, Rohee said that the ministry sought and obtained Cabinet’s approval for the employment of 60 civilians who are working as data entry clerks at five divisional traffic registries, 48 police stations and the Georgetown prison, Camp St.
He said that the ministry has sought and received Cabinet’s approval for the employment of a further 25 data entry clerks.