Last week during its first quarterly meeting for 2013, the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association disclosed it was trying to raise $1.6 million to purchase and install 26 cameras for the West Coast to enhance security.
We applaud the BHTA on the initiative which will benefit all Barbadians, and not just tourists as some might be inclined to believe. We question though, whether it ought to be a BHTA driven initiative, even though the idea might have originated in the tourism sector.
We raise the question because we believe that the issue of electronic monitoring of our public spaces, particularly our streets, ought to be viewed from a much more national perspective. Understand clearly that we support the West Coast venture and believe it is long overdue, but are of the view that it is time we put in place the infrastructure for the electronic surveillance of the entire country, either by the police or a security agency constituted with appropriate powers (as well as sanctions for misuse).
Those among us with a “big-brother” complex might balk of the idea of “Government” eyes watching our every move in public, but it is about time that we all come to the conclusion that we are living in challenging times and we, like it or not, must enforce the principle that there can be no expectation of privacy in a public place.
It is also well accepted that we have reached that point when we have to be smart with the limited resources that we have, and there is no way that under the current strained financial circumstances that we will be able to afford to locate enough human eyes — police eyes — where they would be needed to thwart the criminal intent of a growing group among us. Ironically, it is those same strained financial circumstances that the guilty use as their excuse for their criminal acts.
So while the tourist belts of the West and South Coasts might require urgent attention, it is no longer enough to leave the streets of Bridgetown, Speightstown, Oistins, around bus and route taxi terminals, parks, even the most heavily used beaches as well as major thoroughfares like the ABC Highway to the private security guards, Government security personnel, rangers, lifeguards and the limited patrols that our stretched lawmen are able to mount.
Yes, the cameras will not see everything and are therefore no panacea for eradicating crime, but the well designed, constructed and monitored CCTV system will go a long way toward catching perpetrators given the increased likelihood that they would have crossed the path of these devices either before or after their dastardly act.
We also wonder if there would not be significant benefit in the development of a mechanism that would allow the scores of businesses such as banks, gas stations and stores all over the country, which now operate their own CCTV systems to be tied into a national monitoring.
The Government of Barbados some years ago offered tax concessions to businesses to encourage the installation of such security systems — it is now time for us to go the extra mile and create a national network. Those among us who are bent on profiting from the hard work of others must be made to feel the discomfort of knowing that their chances of getting away with their illegal acts have been diminished considerably.
We have a duty to say to our guests and law abiding citizens that we will do what is necessary to protect them, the economy and the reputation of the country and that the investment in a modern electronic surveillance system is far more cost effective, reliable and available on a 24-hour basis than stepped-up police patrols alone.
We need to get with the programme!