I thank Senator Conway for raising this important matter. All Seanadóirí will be aware that the programme for a partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems at key locations along the road network and in urban centres. I am pleased to inform the Senator that, in pursuance of this commitment, a community-based CCTV grant-aid scheme was launched by my Department in 2017 to assist groups in the establishment of community-based CCTV systems in their local areas.
It is intended that the scheme will run for a period of three years from April 2017, with funding of some €1 million being made available each year.
Under the scheme, which is being administered by my Department, eligible community groups can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of a proposed closed circuit television, CCTV, system, up to a maximum grant of €40,000.
Four applications under the current scheme have been approved to date, with approved funding totalling almost €120,000. A further four applications are under active consideration. Another three applications have been returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to provide the information necessary to qualify for this grant aid, and I understand that a number of other applications are currently being readied for submission to my Department.
Regarding national standards applicable to CCTV, I can confirm that the rules governing the establishment of community CCTV schemes are provided for in the Garda Síochána Act 2005, as amended, and in the Garda Siochána (CCTV) Order 2006. This legal framework requires proposed community CCTV schemes to have the prior support of the relevant local authority, which must act as data controller in respect of the system; be approved by the local joint policing committee; and have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner in accordance with section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005.
The grant aid scheme is intended to supplement the existing network of CCTV systems in operation in the State. For example, there are some 35 Garda CCTV schemes in operation throughout the State comprising in excess of 500 cameras. There are also some 45 community-based CCTV schemes in operation, established under the previous grant aid scheme funded by my Department between 2005 and 2013, encompassing some 367 cameras to which An Garda Siochána has access.
Regarding the road network, it can be noted that services under the Garda safety camera contract commenced in May of last year provide an annual minimum of 90,000 hours of monitoring and surveying vehicle speed across over 1,000 designated safety camera zones. Further, expansion of the use of technologies including CCTV and automatic number plate recognition is included under the Garda Commissioner’s Modernisation and Renewal Programme 2016-2021.
The investment represented by the community-based CCTV grant aid scheme reflects the value that communities, especially rural communities, place on CCTV as a means of deterring crime and assisting in the detection of offenders. I thank Senator Conway in particular, who represents the people of the rural county of Clare, for raising this issue. I advise the Senator to remain in close contact with the joint policing committee and with community groups to ensure there is an appropriate level of information which will assist communities in the matter of these schemes. Senator Conway is right. CCTV schemes are important as a means of deterring crime. They also assist in the detection and recognition of offenders.
I am conscious, too, that in late 2015, An Garda Slochána reviewed the effectiveness of CCTV systems and indicated that it utilises CCTV in almost every criminal investigation, during major public events and sporting occasions, in the investigation of road traffic incidents and in many other areas requiring police attention and action. Community-based CCTV systems have therefore proven to be of significant assistance in the prevention and detection of crime across the State, including in County Clare.
I am very anxious to ensure that all interested groups in both rural and urban areas manage to take advantage of the availability of this grant aid scheme. Full details of the package are available to download from my Department’s website, www.justice.ie. Officials in my Department are available to provide additional guidance on the application process should that be deemed helpful and appropriate.
I thank Senator Conway for raising this issue. If there are other colleagues interested in it I ask them to join me in encouraging local interest groups to take advantage of the availability of this important scheme.