Can’t put a price on safety

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National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds, centre, points to a screen at the launch of the police operational centre at the Barataria/El Socorro police station on Thursday. Photo by Jeff Mayers

While he was unable to give a definite cost for the outfitting of a state-of-the-art command centre at the Barataria/ El Socorro police station, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds insisted any price was necessary to better secure the community and the nation.

Hinds made the remarks at the launch of the command centre on Thursday, where he highlighted the need for technology to play a more inclusive role in crime-fighting initiatives.

The command centre was moved from Santa Cruz to the Barataria/ El Socorro police station which would be better equipped and more spacious to accommodate the technology and staff required to operate it.

Responding to questions over the cost of the command centre, Hinds said while he could not quote a definite price, the benefit of having a centralised monitoring centre to co-ordinate manpower and resources made it worth any price.

He said he was satisfied the cost was necessary and went towards legitimate crime-fighting purposes.

“I’ll tell you one thing, the opportunity cost is often in blood, trauma, broken bones, stolen cars. I therefore suggest whatever the cost it is worth every penny of it because all of this was procured in an environment where transparency, accountability, openness and the pursuit of value for money were paramount.

“I am satisfied that the executive of the police, with the support that it has in the administration, will continue to follow the best practices and all of the standards that are expected of us so I am confident on that basis, especially in light of the possibilities for opportunity cost, that every cent expended on the activity and human resources in that room, the body cams and vehicles are in dollars and cents in your best interest.”

Hinds said as criminals become bolder and more aggressive, different arms of law enforcement should adjust their techniques to keep pace with criminals.

For his part, acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said the cost to set up the room was minimal as most of the devices and monitors used in the command centre were transferred from other locations.

“We have taken screens, computers and other things, number one we had a room at the Riverside Plaza with such screens which were not being utilised, we brought it here. We moved those screens here and it was mentioned we initially had a wireless room based at Santa Cruz with a few computers and all of that were transferred here.”

Jacob said the police worked with TSTT to ensure the fibre-optic cables had the necessary bandwidth when the move was made.

“The setting up of this centre was done in an economic way and it did not cost us anything much at all.”

Referring to a mass shooting in New York where nine people were wounded and a suspect captured hours later, Jacob said there have been instances where the police were able to locate and capture criminals within a relatively short spate of time.

He also said the command centre was a useful tool in being able to monitor certain streets and alleys remotely as he referred to an incident where a man was arrested after he was seen hiding a machine gun in an abandoned lot.

He said these tools were necessary as it could be used by officers to strategically position themselves to capture criminals who may be on the run.

Jacob added that similar command centres would be established in all nine police to monitor and direct resources to where they were in most need.

The command centre which consists of 14 screens covers receives a live stream of CCTV footage from cameras throughout the country with specific focus on the North Eastern Division where the Barataria/ El Socorro police station is located.

The centre also has a licensing office database where police on the field can call to verify the information of drivers.

Civilian staff and police officers were trained to operate the devices and monitor the controls and would utilise a shift system so that continuous monitoring was done at all hours.

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