CCTV scheme review welcomed

The operation of community-based CCTV schemes and issues arising, particularly around data protection, are set to be reviewed, members of the Cavan Joint Policing Committee (JPC) were informed at their recent meeting online.

The move was welcomed by members, many of whom have repeatedly highlighted problems with regard to progressing four applications locally.

They used the speaking opportunity with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to press their concerns further.

Since 2017, 29 applications have been approved under the scheme, involving approved grants totalling more than €689,000.

Eligible groups, including community groups and local authorities nationwide, can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed CCTV system, up to a maximum of €40,000.

Last year the scheme was extended to cover not only new CCTV systems but upgrades of existing systems.

In order to qualify CCTV systems must first be approved by the relevant Joint Policing Committee (JPC), the relevant local authority (also acting as data controller) and have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

“The scheme is at an impasse,” stated Aontú's Sarah O'Reilly, who asked Comm Harris directly if he'd allow An Garda Síochána take on the role of data controller.

Independent Councillor Brendan Fay outlined how the town of Belturbet has applied for CCTV under the scheme but the project had not proceeded any further despite best efforts.

“Is there a solution going forward?” asked Cllr Fay, while Fianna Fail Deputy Niamh Smyth said she had raised the matter previously with former Minister for Justice, Charles Flanagan, and had not yet had the opportunity to discuss it with the new Minister, Helen McEntee.

Chair of the Cavan JPC, John Paul Feeley (FF) accused the government of trying to “reinvent the wheel” with the current scheme, considering: “There was a scheme put in place in Cavan Town a number of years ago. It works. The television screens can be viewed by members in Cavan Garda Station, Cavan County Council I think are still the data controller for it.”

But Comm Harris informed the meeting that the present wording of the legislative framework - section 38(3)(c) of Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána (CCTV) Order 2006- meant the Garda Commissioner was precluded from being the data holder.

“I do acknowledge that CCTV systems do provide reassurance to people around the country, and the present situation does seem to be building up some frustration,” said Comm Harris, who noted that Cavan JPC was not the only body to raise the matter with him.

In relation to the four local CCTV applications, the Commissioner committed to assessing those before returning to the JPC on how best to progress them if possible.

“The legislation, as it is very clearly states, I can't be the data controller. So we're not going to be able to resolve that.”

More patrol cars

Separately Comm Harris informed the same JPC meeting that more investment in garda transport was due.

Responding to a question put by Cllr Fay, who asked if the community garda cars utilised by the force during Covid lockdown could be kept, Comm Harris informed him that the force had committed to purchasing 50 new vehicles.

These would be used to supplement those already in use and thus reducing the reliance on hire vehicles. “We're replacing them with our own vehicles, which will pretty much be delivered in the same way. Then we'll wait and see if we can buy more. It does come down to capital this year and next.”