In what could make Davao City a place where human movement becomes easier to track, the City Council passed on second reading a proposed ordinance that requires business establishments to install closed-circuit television cameras.
According to councilor Victorio Advincula, installing CCTV cameras on business establishments aims to protect citizens. This is also in line with the local government’s campaign on minimizing crime, he added.
In case you’re not yet aware, news coverage often make use of CCTV footage to describe the crime or accidents and police authorities use them to identify culprits in cases like burglary, robbery, homicide or any violation of the law. Since CCTV footage seldom lie, they have become effective tools in collaring criminals or at least deter those who attempt to become one. Required video footage devices need to have 30-60 reels per second, and owners need to record in a disc worth one month’s video of its premises and surrounding areas. In an event of crime, owners need to surrender the video to local police.
Of course, small sari sari stores who install hidden cameras to deter petty crimes are welcome. But they’re not required to do so, as only establishments with capital worth P3 million ($73,046) and above are required to install these devices. The proposed ordinance requires businesses to designate an employee to manage the CCTV operation. Businesses are subject to a maximum of P5,000 fine for failure to comply this ordinance.
With additional investment of device and manpower to comply the law, some establishments may wonder if it’s worth paying the small fine than spend a bigger amount in maintaining the device. But without a doubt, CCTV cameras will become an indispensable tool, in cases when the business — whether a convenience outlet, gasoline station or Internet cafe — gets into trouble.
Councilor Paulo Duterte, chair for committee on public safety, is the principal proponent of the ordinance. The third and final reading is scheduled in December 2012.
In case this proposed ordinance is approved by the city council, Philippines Davao thinks of the following outcomes:
- Growing business of CCTV cameras. In 2004, there are over 32,000 business establishments in Davao City. Assuming the number increases to 40,000 in 2012, that’s a big number of customers who wish to buy these devices, just like taxi operators are required to install meter readers inside their vehicles.
The problem: Possible proliferation of substandard, low-quality products that penny-pinching buyers may wish to get. Such grainy videos they produce are next to nothing and may not lead to an effective law enforcement.
- CCTV Technician courses. Since buying a CCTV camera is not enough to comply with the law, schools may offer short-term tutorials on how to operate this valuable device.
The problem: In case certification is required to prove the company has one qualified CCTV operator, bogus certifications may serve as a short cut to comply with the law. Unfortunately, we will only know if staff is qualified in recording and managing sensitive videos only when CCTV is handed over to solve the crime.
- Criminals getting more clever. Most of culprits caught on camera do not easily reveal their identities. They wear caps, helmets or cover their faces with towels to avoid detection. They may discard shirts they wear at the time of crime or grow beard and moustache to defy cartographers.
The problem: Do we start stereotyping people who wear caps, helmets and bonnets as criminals?
As a whole, installing CCTV cameras — or even recording crime on our phones — is a demotivating factor that makes would-be criminals think twice. But let’s make sure these devices are secured, to begin with. No video can be recorded if burglars smash a hidden camera. Or no mobile video will be made, if our phones get snatched by criminals and their cohorts.