Saturday, 21 April 2012

Police install high-tech cameras to fight crime

Devices part of new network that will extend across island in future
By Jalelah Abu Baker, The Straits Times, 20 Apr 2012

HIGH-TECH security cameras are being installed in the first phase of a new network that will eventually extend across the island.

More than 10 have been fitted in Jalan Bukit Merah, in a move that will give police a fresh tool to help tackle crime in the estate.

Unlike ordinary security cameras, the new system is designed to capture people both entering and leaving the area.

Residents in Jalan Bukit Merah are hoping that the technology will rid them of the loan shark runners who have defaced debtors' doors, targeted neighbouring flats and vandalised motorbikes.

It could also prove a deterrent against other crimes. 'People sell cigarettes illegally here, and sometimes the old people get cheated,' said odd-job labourer Goh Mia Siang. 'This gives the people more safety.'

The 62-year-old, who has lived in the area for more than 10 years, added that the cameras could be an extra eye for the police.

Six cameras have been installed in the estate's carpark, covering four entry or exit points and two stairwells.

The other five are in the lobby and stairwells of a block of one-room flats.

When The Straits Times visited the area yesterday, most people there appeared to be senior citizens.

Some residents said that while they welcomed the move, simply having the cameras would not be enough. They would also need proper maintenance.

Electrician Loh Siew Tuck, 63, said he was glad the devices were being installed in the carpark, adding: 'It's a good deterrent against people's cashcards being stolen from their vehicles, though we should keep a lookout for our own belongings as well.'

Signs will be put up to indicate that the cameras are run by the police. The devices will not be monitored live. However, if a crime happens within the camera zone, footage will be used to help with investigations.

Unused footage will be kept for a month, then overwritten. The police will be responsible for the cameras' maintenance.

By 2016, the scheme will cover 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks across Singapore.

The aim is to have 300 fitted by May in seven areas, including Bishan, Tampines and Woodlands. These locations were chosen to represent different parts of the country and a spread of housing types, said the police. Existing cameras, which were installed in several estates on an ad-hoc basis from 2002, will continue to operate.

The new network was announced in Parliament last month by Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran as part of a new police strategy that aims to make full use of technology.

Other aspects of the Community Policing System include round-the-clock access to automated services at Neighbourhood Police Posts and a new unit which will see officers patrolling on foot and bicycles in casual clothes.

There have been several cases of cameras helping to solve crimes. In February, a 22-year-old man was arrested a day after breaking into a restaurant and stealing about $3,000. He was identified using security footage.

A 48-year-old dubbed the 'heartbeat molester' was caught in November 2010 after pictures of him taken by a security camera were published in the media.

Described as Singapore's worst serial molester, Martin Tan Chye Guan operated in the heartland, preying on young girls returning home from school. He would ask them to feel his heartbeat then expose himself and force them to touch him.

The parcel courier and part-time property agent evaded capture for more than a decade because his young victims were unable to give a proper description.

Tan was sentenced to 10 years in jail and 21 strokes of the cane last April.

The police said they hope to deter other such criminals, as well as offenders like snatch thieves.

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