Fears over threat to 'hugely effective deterrent schemes that help cut crime'
Representatives of a number of communities have expressed alarm at any threat to locally run CCTV security schemes.
Towns, villages and even urban areas have warned that such community-run schemes are now a vital asset in the battle against crime.
However, the schemes now find themselves mired in a data protection wrangle between local councils, the Office of the Data Protection Commission and gardaí.
This revolves around the issue of who acts as the required 'data controller' for such schemes and whether new schemes have controversial technology, such as automatic number plate recognition.
This technology has already run foul of data-protection regulations in other countries, including the UK.
A former mayor of Cork County, Councillor John Paul O'Shea, has said the issues involved are critically important and need to be resolved, so that community CCTV schemes can operate to their maximum potential.
"It is a very important issue, given the number of community CCTV schemes in operation around Ireland and the number of new schemes now being rolled out," he said.
While many such schemes involve a direct feed to the nearest major garda station, not all of them involve such data transfers.
Councillor Melissa Mullane pointed out that the community CCTV scheme in Mallow, Co Cork, which was launched in 2009 at a cost of €170,000, was so successful in foiling crime and tracking down offenders that similar schemes had since been sought by surrounding towns, including Buttevant, Kanturk and Newmarket.
While the Mallow scheme has a direct feed to the local garda stations, other, smaller schemes do not.
"Community CCTV schemes have been hugely effective as a deterrent to crime and also as a valuable asset for gardaí in doing their job, particularly here in Mallow," she said.
"Anything that would threaten their use or their ability to help protect communities is an issue of major concern, particularly in rural Ireland."
Ms Mullane pointed out that at the moment there are plans to expand the original Mallow CCTV scheme, which boasted 10 cameras, with multiple new camera installations.
Mallow Chamber of Commerce members also hailed the CCTV scheme as "a God-send" in the battle against crime.
"I just don't understand the issues involved; surely we should be encouraging and supporting schemes like this and helping protect both traders and residents alike from crime," a spokesman said.