Public private partnership takes charge of camera security system

POSTED: 03/23/11 12:52 PM

Chamber calls for broad support

St. Maarten – The Chamber of Commerce will establish as soon as possible a public/private partnership that will be charged with executing the St. Maarten security system. The first phase of this plan aims to install eighteen cameras in downtown Philipsburg in the area from the courthouse and the government building towards the Vineyard building, and seven cameras in St. Peters South Reward near Milton Peters College, the St. Maarten Vocational Training School and the St. Maarten Academy.

The public/private partnership will be a foundation with representatives from the public and the private sector on board. As soon as this entity is established, the project no longer belongs to the Chamber of Commerce, Chamber-president Glen Carty said at a briefing yesterday afternoon.

The Chamber spent $80, 000 on an in-depth study of a security system for St. Maarten. This study was done by Liberty Consultants, the company of former prosecutors Peter Lucas and Johan de Vrieze and former Marechaussee Jack de Groote.

The partnership’s main concern will be to secure financing for the project. Executing the first phase is projected to cost an estimated $1.5 million. The cameras are budgeted at $650,000, maintenance and project setup at $100,000 each, and the annual cost for staff and a location for the monitoring room at $718,000.

In yesterday’s meeting the Chamber’s new executive director Clarence Connor stressed the importance of fighting crime. Arturo Bute, the chair of the Chamber’s Surveillance Security Systems committee highlighted the history of the chamber’s involvement with combating escalating crime. The effort began with a seminar in Maho in 2004, followed by the establishment of a security task force in 2006. Nothing much came of these initiatives, but that changed with Liberty Consultants being commissioned to draft the security report in 2009. Last year the report was presented to stakeholders during a meeting at the Westin Hotel, and in November it was presented to Justice Minister Roland Duncan.

“The minister was very receptive to the ideas that were presented and has indicated his support for this initiative,” the Chamber wrote in an invitation for yesterday’s meeting.

The St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association, the Bankers Association, the Indian Merchants Association and the Chamber of commerce are some of the main stakeholders. The security committee will send out letters of support to stakeholders with the request to sign them as an expression of their support for the project.

The Indian Merchants Association gave the project a thumbs up, after Carty made clear that the request is for support and not for dollars, and will discuss the matter with its freshly installed board.

De Groote gave a brief overview of the security system study that was presented last year at the Westin. At the time, the reaction to the report and to the call for support seemed lukewarm, but yesterday the atmosphere was different. De Groote also pointed out that the project is facing challenges in the fields of privacy, technology, organization, financing, legislation and infrastructure.

“All these issues will have to be addressed to make the project successful,” he said.

Financing is one of the major issues. It is not possible to install a surveillance system for the whole island in one go, though this is the ultimate goal. Legislation is another issue. Carty said that the partnership will not wait for government to act but that it will engage in writing draft legislation itself.

“We will offer the government a turnkey project,” he said.

The initiators of the project are looking at Aruba as their example. The current Chief Commissioner of Police Peter de Witte was involved with that project.

Carty said that once the monitoring room is set up, technology will become potentially an enormous help for law enforcement.

“If police are looking for instance for a certain car, it is possible to distribute the number plate to cell phones and two-way radios. Suddenly you will have 30, 000 people on the lookout for that car,” he said.

Carty added that it will take a number of years before the ultimate goal of a security system for St. Maarten will be a reality. He also said that it is time for private initiatives to join forces.

“We have had about seven different crime committees over the years. Every time something terrible happened, such a committee popped up. It is about time for the private sector to unite.”


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