The East Cork town has had its new CCTV cameras turned off in a dispute, it has been claimed, over who controls the data feed.
The all-seeing eyes, introduced to Midleton to assist Gardaí in fighting off criminals, is said to be out of action with no plans to turn them on until such time as the issues surrounding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are resolved.
Cllr Noel Collins, who raised the matter at the September Sitting of the East Cork Municipality, was told that the €100,000 CCTV Scheme monitoring the town centre and its environs is not operational, as both An Garda Síochána and Cork County Council try to reach agreement as to who controls the data recorded.
EU Data Protection Laws, introduced in May 2018, have changed the way in which we capture and handle CCTV footage. Historically, schemes such as that of the Midleton project would be funded by Cork County Council, with the video feed being controlled by An Garda Síochána.
The new GDPR rules require Local Authorities to employ a Data Protection Officer, as Gardaí who use the information from the CCTV systems are no longer permitted to be the keeper of DATA.
Cllr Collins told the Sitting of the Municipality District that the state of the art scheme, designed to link 26 cameras to Midleton Garda Station, “are nothing more than empty shells”
“They can be likened to the scarecrow in the field for root crops, frightening the crows away. This, however, is much more serious with lives at risk” he said.
The independent Cllr said he has received “complaints from residents who suffered violent behaviour from night prowlers, but no evidence of such showed up on CCTV in close proximity”.
He said “action on the present situation is needed for the safety and protection of the business lives of the town, and its citizens.”
Cllr James O’Connor said “both he and the Fianna Fail Justice and Equality spokesperson, Jim O’Callaghan, had an opportunity to speak with An Garda Síochána regarding the Midleton scheme.”
The Fianna Fail Cllr said “from a data protection perspective there are two issues - one falls to GDPR and the other to the fact that no Data Protection Officer has been appointed by the Midleton Garda Station.”
“As a result” he said “a lot of businesses are afraid to release footage to the Gardaí even though it forms part of criminal investigations in many cases, because of their own protection of GDPR”
Breaches of GDPR can result in a fine of anywhere up to quarter of a million Euro, said Cllr O’Connor.
Green Party Cllr Liam Quaide said “in addition to Cllr Collins’ concerns about commercial areas, we also need to consider CCTV in areas where illegal dumping occurs.”
“If we can have CCTV in an off-licence, we should value our areas of natural beauty enough to have it there also” he said.
Sinn Fein Cllr Danielle Twomey said that, following a Motion which she tabled last year, Cork County Council is investigating the potential of developing a Data Centre with neighbouring Authorities.
She said “Limerick City and County Council have employed an Independent Company to operate a monitoring station. Since its establishment in 1997 it has helped to reduce levels of anti-social behaviour in areas such as Moyross.”
In 2015 the 24 hour system was extended to areas in the south of the city. The cost of the Moyross Data Centre was €2.7million with an annual running cost of up to €600,000. The Limerick project is currently funded by Limerick City and County Council, with the remainder picked up by the Department of Social Protection.
The Garda Press Office was asked for comment, but no statement was received prior to going to print.
However, Senior Garda Management in Cork County told the County Council Policing and Crime Forum on Monday that new legislation governing the use of Community CCTV Schemes is currently going through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
They said the new laws, which also cover use by the Force of body cams to gather evidence and provide police with their own recordings of situations which they encounter on the beat, should be Law by next summer.