Sunday 9 December 2018

Communities can't get CCTV due to 'convoluted' scheme, TDs claim

Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells. Photo: Tom Burke
Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Communities are not able to avail of a CCTV scheme aimed at deterring rural crime due to issues over who is responsible for the data and the need to raise a chunk of the cash themselves, TDs have claimed.

The Government launched a community CCTV scheme in April 2017 to provide grants of up to 60pc of the cost with a maximum sum set at €40,000.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan highlighted the availability of the €1m in annual funding again at the National Ploughing Championships last September.

However, so far just four successful applications, totalling almost €120,000, have been made, according to figures provided to Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells.

CCTV systems are viewed as a key tool in combating crime, particularly burglary gangs that stalk rural areas using Ireland's network of motorways.

The latest Central Statistics Office figures show 18,576 burglaries nationwide in the 12 months to the end of March.

That's up by more than 200 incidents on the same period in the previous year.

Concern over the low take-up was raised at the Dáil's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) by Mr Cassells and others.

Mr Cassells said the scheme was "not working", arguing that many community groups can't find the funds required to implement it.

He told the Irish Independent: "You either do something right or don't bother doing it at all and the poor take-up of the scheme shows it's convoluted.

"We've rural communities that could benefit greatly from CCTV but they don't have the cash to pay the 40pc balance."

Labour TD Alan Kelly gave the Government credit for providing a "substantial amount of funding" but claimed that local authorities and gardaí don't want to take responsibility for where the data collected by the CCTV is stored.

He said there were also issues over who was going to monitor it and ensure it complied with European GDPR data protection laws.

"The fact is that crimes are being committed. CCTV will be able to help in solving some of these crimes, particularly on motorways," Mr Kelly added.

He said if some protocol was not developed for the introduction of CCTV systems, the issues with the scheme were "going to go on forever".

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said: "There's no point in having this scheme unless it's usable."

But she said that CCTV had been introduced in some communities and suggested writing to the City and County Managers Association (CCMA) to see if arrangements in these places can be replicated elsewhere.

The PAC agreed to do this as well as to contact the Department of Justice and gardaí on the matter.

The information provided to Mr Cassells by the Department of Justice earlier this month shows that three of the applications for funding that have been approved were in Wexford and there was one successful bid in Wicklow. A further four applications were under active consideration and three were returned to the applicants seeking further information necessary to qualify for the grant aid. A further 14 applications were expected to be made in the near future.

The department noted that the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner had confirmed that it did not have any concerns over the legislative underpinning of the CCTV systems.

To qualify for a community CCTV scheme, the proposal must be supported by the local Joint Policing Committee and the local authority - which must act as the data controller.

The plan must also have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner.

Irish Independent

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