Candid camera

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There are currently, at least four people missing in Antigua & Barbuda.  We are sure that the situations are stressful times for the families and our thoughts and prayers go out to them.  We hope for joyous reunions in the shortest period of time. 
It is hard to believe that there could be four people missing in our tiny bit of paradise.  Our land mass is relatively small and hiding anyone or anything is generally difficult because of the general nosey-ness of our people. 
People always marvel at how cars can be stolen in Antigua but now we are talking about four people who are currently missing and whose families are beside themselves with frustration, anger, anxiety and every other possible emotion of which we can think. 
There were rumours that a private business may have caught the last glimpse of one of the missing young women on a security camera.  There has been no confirmation but whether the reports are accurate or not, it got us thinking about the various security camera projects that have been announced with great fanfare.  One would think that with all the money that was spent (or announced to be spent), we would be reaping the rewards of this high technology deployment, especially in cases like these.
The last incarnation of a closed-circuit television system was launched in early 2014.  Mere months before the general election, the government, via the Ministry of National Security, announced and outlined the particulars of the long-awaited US $2.1 million CCTV project which was funded in partnership with Digicel.
The then National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort said, “The arrangement is over a five-year period where Digicel would have put the monies up front for the cost of the system … And the government will be paying Digicel over a five-year period for the cost of the system. At the end of the five-year period, the system goes to government for $1.” 
To ease the fears that the system would become yet another ‘state-of-the-art’ project that would suffer under government mismanagement, Cort said Digicel would be responsible for maintenance of the surveillance system throughout its lifetime.
To the best of our knowledge the project was completed and the monitoring centre was housed alongside the emergency response call system (E-911) so as to allow quick dispatch of emergency services. 
For those unfamiliar with the E-911 system, it is a quasi-private monitoring system that fields emergency calls and co-ordinates the required response. We say ‘quasi-private’ because while it can be considered a national security system, it is overseen by the Minister of Telecommunications and manned by private professionals (ie not the police).  At least that is how we know it to be, and the system has met our praise previously.  It is good to have another layer in the chain that can provide information, independent of the police.
The CCTV system is an excellent extension of the emergency response system and represents a great boost to our crime-fighting abilities.  There are many detractors that do not appreciate the George Orwell “Big Brother” overtones of having ever watching eyes, but as these are publicly located, we believe that the possible good outweighs the small intrusion of having someone watching over your shoulder in public.   
We have not heard of any crime-solving being attributed to the CCTV system but it could be a case of the police keeping that to themselves.  In the case of missing people, the eyes on the street could provide significant leads as to the direction that searches should be focused or simply provide leads for witnesses.  As we have said before, somebody, somewhere knows something – whether they know that they do or not.  With the CCTV being able to go back in time and place people at scenes, memories could be jogged, and the previously insignificant becomes significant.
The point is, we have bought into the CCTV surveillance model – literally – so we should be bringing all of these resources to bear in dealing with situations such as missing people, as well as crime in general.
It certainly would be good to know if the CCTV systems are functional and are being monitored.  There is no guarantee but the hope is that just the knowledge that people are being watched would be a deterrent to crime in our small community.  And, for the families of these missing people it would be some comfort, as small as it may be, that the possibility exists that the camera captured something that we humans missed.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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