Big Brother? Sibenik to Get 230 Surveillance Cameras in 74 Locations

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This project has been in the works for a couple of years. The City of Sibenik has taken out a big loan back in 2020 of about 3.585,000 euros. Only a portion of that money has been budgeted for these cameras, while the rest was set aside for playgrounds and a couple of other projects like funding for a new kindergarten, for the valorisation of a fort, etc.

Deputy mayor of Sibenik Mr. Danijel Mileta said in a recent interview that the cameras themselves will cost about 1.062.400 euros, two control rooms about 212.000 euros, and underground optic cables and various infrastructure about 530.000 euros, and with added VAT, we come to a grand total of about 2.225.500 euros.

Sibenik is a very safe city, but…

During this whole process, local politicians and heads of the local police would always preface their statements with “Sibenik is a very safe city”, but somehow we need 230 cameras in 74 locations paid for by the city’s tax payers to make the city “even safer”. It’s rather unusual that in these times, when everything is financed by EU funds or one of the many ministries, that the cost of this fell directly into citizens’ laps.

It’s true, Sibenik like the rest of the country in that it is basically very, very safe. It’s perfectly fine for women to go out alone at night, muggings don’t happen, violence is rare, and when it happens it never has anything to do with foreigners, and is usually domestic violence or feuds between business partners, like the last murders that happened over two years ago.

Is Big Brother making himself comfortable here in our fair city?

Mr. Mileta emphasises that this will not be any kind of “Big Brother”, and only a few police officers and city employees specifically trained and certified for this system will be allowed access. Sibenik is the first city in Croatia to get such detailed surveillance of its public areas. We’re a city of about 37000 inhabitants, it has one main road running through it, and a historical centre, which will also be full of cameras. The reactions to this move by the city’s politicians is polarising.

Some people are rather dumbfounded and very upset that they plan to do this. They cite privacy reasons, and why do the city and the police need such an extensive network of cameras, and are we giving them a lot of power that we’ll never be able to take away or control? Could this kind of tool be useful for spying on and compromising political opposition, or something similarly nefarious? Sibenik’s local administration is adamant that it will all be transparent and on the level and absolutely not abused in any way shape or form.

Others are cheering the idea on, especially for children’s playgrounds that get vandalised sometimes. They see this as a solution to a lot of communal problems, claiming that the cameras will effectively solve them.

The city administration says they will crack down on illegal parking on the pavements which is a huge problem in Sibenik, it will see the throwing of trash outside of the designated areas dealt with, as well as many other things. The plan is to semi-automate it, the software will recognise an infraction on a vehicle for example, a city employee will then need to OK it on their end, the database will find the owner via the OCR’ed licence plate and then a fine will be sent to that individual.

Not all of the 230 cameras have yet been installed, and there hasn’t been any visible work done over the last couple of months. One deadline for the project was already breached, and the latest estimation that Mr. Mileta provides is a launch date in a couple of months. There haven’t been any official updates from the Mayor’s office regarding the status of this project since this interview in October.

Should this endeavor be a success, we can expect other cities across the country to implement similar technologies. It’s a general global trend to have everything under the nose of watchful cameras. Right now, shops, banks, even cafes and practically everything commercial indoors is under the ever watchful eye of a CCTV camera. There have been and of course are cameras placed in public spaces across the rest of Croatia, but we were mostly spared of an all encompassing camera platform. It seems that era is coming to an end, at least in Sibenik.

The 230 cameras are only the first stage, as they also plan to cover other parts of Sibenik-Knin County with similar cameras, and this area is huge and encompasses many villages and communities.

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