September 08, 2011
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."
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