By Constantinos Psillides
TWO PAIRS of fixed speed cameras are being installed on the busy Grivas Dighenis Avenue in Nicosia, in an attempt to stop people from using the three-kilometre strip for ‘fast and furious’ drag racing.
The Electromechanical Services Department’s (ESD) deputy head Loucas Timotheou said the cameras were being installed this week following a request by the police who are concerned that the long stretch of road was regularly being used as a drag strip, especially over the weekends.
The installation of the cameras, undertaken by a private contractor, will be concluded tomorrow but they won’t go on line immediately.
“According to the contract, the private firm will install the cameras and train police officers on how to use them. These cameras will be operated by the police and it’s up to them to decide when the cameras will be put into service,” Timotheou said.
The deputy head of ESD told the Cyprus Mail that speed bumps will also be placed along that road.
The specific cameras are unrelated to the wider national grid of electronic eyes that are expected to make their comeback after nearly a decade of remaining idle.
The Communication and Works Ministry is planning to set up a new traffic camera network all over the island, according to Timotheou.
Ministry officials are putting together a tender that will be completed by July, aiming to have the new set of cameras up and running by February 2015.
Communication ministry permanent secretary Alecos Michaelides recently told the Cyprus Mail that the company that will be awarded the project will install the cameras and notify the police when a traffic violation is committed. The police will then inform the offender by post, with the photographic proof and fine attached.
Asked whether he expects any controversy regarding personal data protection, Michaelides had said that the ministry is taking this issue very seriously and will put the necessary safeguards in place.
The ministry’s permanent secretary had noted that the contractor would either receive a percentage of the fine as payment (3-5 per cent) or receive a fixed amount for every fine. “That remains to be seen. It depends on the companies. Some of them would want to be paid a percentage, some a fixed amount. We will evaluate every proposition and decide what’s best for the state,” he said.
Asked whether being paid on the number of fines would give an incentive to the company to dish out as many fines as possible, Michaelides had said that people who break the law should be punished. “We have delayed this long enough. Installing cameras is the only way to bring order and protect the people from drivers who break the law and have no regard for others’ safety,” he said.
Installing traffic cameras dates back almost a decade. After heated debates, mainly focused on personal data protection, a network was set up in 2006 but it was quickly discarded. The cameras had numerous problems, including failure to store photographs and extensive bureaucracy that in some cases resulted in fining a person twice for the same violation while letting others go unpunished.
The cameras were taken down in 2007 and in 2008 it was announced that new cameras would be put up by 2010. In 2011 the Tender Review Board challenged the specifications outlined in the process and cancelled the government’s plan for the fifth time. Failing to find a way of effectively setting up the system, the government decided to outsource the venture to a private firm.