Lack of legislation stalls camera project

POSTED: 01/21/13 12:53 PM

St. Maarten – “We were told in the beginning that Philipsburg is camera ready, with the renovations and everything is in place. But then we were stuck with legislation and who is going to monitor. Then where is it going to be? We did not expect all the things that we needed to put in place.”
The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Harbor are in negotiations to execute the Philipsburg surveillance camera project. However the absence of legislation to regulate the public security project stands in its way says Vice President Hubert Pantophlet. “Legislation is needed. When we started it that is where the slowdown came because when we approached the various entities such as the public prosecutor, we were faced with people saying this project is very good but how do you enforce it because we need the legislation in place. It was trial and error while we were going through the project,” Pantophlet said.
Four years ago, the Chamber commissioned a study on the feasibility of placing surveillance cameras in Philipsburg. The results of that study were then presented to various stakeholders at the Westin Dawn Beach Resort. After the initial euphoria, the project appeared to have died a natural death following concerns about monitoring, costs, aesthetics and a facility to house the images. Updating the media Friday, the Chamber said that the project was in hibernation but was recently revived, because it still believes it is the right thing for the commercial district. “The collaboration with the harbor was initiated by us providing the harbor with the study. They are looking at the possibility of introducing some aspects of the study. In dealing with camera systems, it is not only about monitoring the public because once you go public the Ministry of Justice will have to become involved,” Executive Director Claret Connor said. “It is a very costly project. There is a lot of money that went into this study. It is not something that we can just push aside. We have to finalize this project,” Pantophlet said. If the harbor assists, then a pilot project can be initiated in Philipsburg and later extend into other communities, especially school environments, he hopes. Connor said that the Minister of Justice has shown interest in the project and will be meeting with the Chamber soon. He added that last October, the Chamber visited the Netherlands, where it was given a tour of the police camera surveillance system in The Hague. “The Chamber of Commerce in The Hague is willing to assist us with any type of logistical and operational information that we may need.” “What was disclosed to us is that a surveillance system that is public must be regulated by an entity by law; a government institution doing the surveillance. That person that sits behind the cameras has limitations in terms of what that information can be used for,” Connor said. He added that businesses who invest in their own camera systems will also have to put infrastructure in place so that the authorities can tap into their systems if needed. A fund may need to be established to pay for the equipment but the Chamber could not say if all businesses are committed to the project. “I don’t think it has to do with if they are committed or not. It is in their general interest to have this camera system because it helps us, them and the justice system,” Pantophlet stated. Pantophlet said that he was also surprised to see that the facility at the Captain John Hodge Pier that was previously identified to store the surveillance equipment has now been transformed into a police outpost.

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