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Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest said yesterday that the implementation of closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras throughout The Bahamas will not, in isolation, reduce the crime rate, adding that other factors will play critical roles in the project's success.
Turnquest was on hand at a contract signing event for the national closed circuit television project at police headquarters.
The project, with a contract valued at $4.6 million, was one Turnquest said all Bahamians should be proud of.
The contract for the first phase of the CCTV project was signed by a group of firms headed by Bahamian company Lowe's Security Limited and its U.S.-based partner Avrio RMS Group, as well as Security Centers International Limited, which is based in the Cayman Islands.
"Research has shown that the mere placement of CCTV cameras does not automatically guarantee a reduction in crime, as many factors have to be considered," said Turnquest. "For example, we are ensuring that the cameras are effectively monitored and that the police have the capacity to respond rapidly and appropriately to incidents reported by the cameras.
"Hence the government has ensured that the police have the appropriate radio dispatch, available manpower and required mobility."
According to the minister, 243 cameras will be strategically deployed throughout New Providence, with hopes of bring the project to Grand Bahama and the other Family Islands.
Turnquest said the cameras will "span firstly from St. Alban's Drive in the west to Mackey Street in the east, and covering areas at least one mile south of Bay Street".
"Additional cameras will be strategically located in other areas of the island and will focus on high crime areas and hot spots, giving police officers additional eyes to monitor, prevent and detect crimes," he said.
"This project will have as its primary focus those areas where the police force faces some of its major crime challenges."
The national security minister said signs will be erected to identify the location of all cameras. Protocols and procedures will be in place to preserve the privacy and rights of residents.
The system will also have license plate recognition software, Turnquest noted.
The government will also work with the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to provide the Wi-Fi network for the cameras, at a cost of $600,000.
An agreement will also be signed with the Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) and will cover the use of its infrastructure for the mounting of the cameras and ancillary equipment, and for the provision of power.
The installation of the cameras will begin on May 1, with a target completion date before the end of September.
As the government considers which company will install CCTV cameras throughout New Providence, two young Bahamians in the U.S. are urging officials to drop what they are doing, and think again.
Shawn Barker, 35, and Depree Smith, 30, the CEOs of Virclom Technologies, have recently partnered with a major U.S. company to sell, install and distribute a cutting-edge gun shot and explosive detection system that could complement the CCTV cameras, or even make them obsolete.
The system, first used by the U.S. military, is already being used in downtown Los Angeles and New Orleans, and involves state-of-the-art cameras capable of picking up specific sound-waves.
When a gun is fired, the system zeroes in on the source, records it and sends the exact GPS location to a command center.
"This technology is superior to what they are implementing," Barker said, who holds a Master's degree in physics.
"We [The Bahamas] have a big problem with crime and we need this technology to capture these actions. We need to do something for The Bahamas."
Safety Dynamics, the U.S. company that has partnered with Virclom, has also sold the technology to the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco.
Barker is keen on the widespread "commercialization" of these systems to improve public safety.
One of the benefits of the system, Barker added, is the cameras are portable, and can be moved around during special events.
Last month, Guardian Business reported that the Bahamas Hotel Association and the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) are ramping up security in tourist areas by investing $7 million in a CCTV network.
Quinn McCartney, the Deputy Commissioner of the RBPF, passed on his department's recommendations to the government regarding who should be awarded the contract.
The matter still rests with the government for final approval, he said.
McCartney told Guardian Business that he is aware of this other form of technology, and believes it could be very effective in The Bahamas as a law enforcement tool.
His only concern is the price tag.
"We looked at that technology, and it appears to be something we could make use of," he said. "I think the cost is an issue, and at the time, it was not deemed to be a priority, so we went with the CCTV cameras."
The RBPF would consider using the technology in the future, he said.
Speaking from California, Barker pointed out that the gun shot and explosive detection system does not necessarily have to replace the CCTV cameras.
Instead, it can supplement and be added on to the system for more safety and support.
Meanwhile, the price of the new technology may not be as expensive as some might think.
"There are a variety of different packages, but this unit, including a command center, computers, servers, a camera and all the technology you need, would cost in the neighborhood of $35,000," Barker told Guardian Business.
"Each additional camera would cost about $5,000 to $10,000."
Considering the current initiative for CCTV cameras is in the range of $7 million, his Bahamian firm can likely deliver at a reasonable price, he said.
Smith, Barker's partner at Virclom Technologies, said they first met at Oklahoma University, and with a Master's in marketing, he tries to promote the system throughout North America on behalf of Safety Dynamics.
In addition to working with Los Angeles and New Orleans, he is currently in talks, along with Safety Dynamics, to introduce this technology to the National Football League and Major League Baseball, as stadium and franchise owners have struggled with crime in recent years and seek a way of keeping the fans safe during and after games.
But while these projects are exciting, he is far more passionate about educating officials about its uses back home.
"The Bahamas is the pinnacle of where we want this technology to be implemented," he explained.
"It is our first and primary focus. We need the government and tourism sector to realize this technology can be great for the country. It can stop the trend we're seeing with crime. In the tourism sector, it'll show that The Bahamas is being proactive in seeking new crime-fighting technology."
Much like men dread the day they have to undergo their first prostate check, I dreaded the day I'd have to do my first mammogram -- an x-ray image of my breasts to screen for breast cancer. That meant that I tried to hold off until the age of 40, the recommended age for women to have their first screening if they have no family history of the disease, for as long as I could. But no matter how much I wished, the date crept up on the calendar day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month and year-by-year.
I can still recall my 39th year annual physical, at which time I was just two months shy of attaining my 40th birthday that my doctor asked if I'd had my first mammogram as yet. My response: No! I was holding steadfast to recommendations that without family history and no detection of lumps to check meant I did not have to undergo that first mammogram until age 40. Then age 40 hit, and I had to make that dreaded appointment to go along with the rest of the annual pokings, proddings and blood-letting that I routinely take.
With a brave face, I showed up at the facility, but the good Lord knows that I really wanted to turn around and walk out the door. I had heard too many stories about the "barbaric" mammogram machine. A friend who started having her mammograms two years before me spoke about not being able to work for the rest of the day after she'd done her mammogram. And of the excruciating pain that would leave her left side numb.
Over the years, I heard about women talking about their breasts being flattened like pancakes from the top and again from the sides. For women, breasts are tender, and when hit, it can be painful, and almost like a man being hit in the testicles. So for most women to have their breasts -- whether large or small -- compressed between two firm surfaces in order to spread out the breast tissue is something they can't fathom or even want to happen. But the flattening of the tissues allows images to be caught, which doctors can look at to detect changes and cancer.
For my first mammogram, I went to a facility that offers digital mammograms. The difference between the old film cameras and a digital camera is that medical practitioners can see the image right away rather than having a piece of film that they have to run through a processor to look at. And just like a digital camera, they can look at the digital image on a screen and change how light or dark it is, whereas with a film they really can't change that.
Digital mammograms tend to be higher in contrast and medical professionals say they are better for women who have dense breast tissue, are under the age of 50, or are pre-menopausal. It is also a little bit more sensitive than film-screen mammography. But in the end, a digital mammogram is just another way of doing mammography. They say it is no better or worse than a film screen mammogram.
With a brave face on, I walked into the screening center after hearing my name called, and was told to disrobe and put on my paper gown. Shivering from both the cool air in the room, and nerves, I stepped up to the machine. The technician palpated each of my breasts to fit onto a plate and when the machine, started to close on my breast, the nerves just took over and I tensed up as all the horror stories flew through my mind.
I was encouraged to relax, and before I knew it, the two images -- side and top view that she needed from the first breast was over in a matter of seconds.
The uncomfortable pinch it took for the image to be snapped was forgotten just like that, and I could not understand what all the "noise in the market" had been about. I stepped up to do the imaging of the second breast, and again the uncomfortable pinching feeling (if I may call it that) lasted mere seconds and went away just as quickly.
I've gotten my first mammogram out of the way, and my results were returned negative. I've gotten over my fear of the mammogram machine and honestly don't know what people were talking about. I know that every year from now on, as long as I'm alive, I will be taking this life-saving screening test, because the seconds of discomfort are outweighed by the other benefits in my opinion.