10/11/2021, 14.50
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Dense CCTV network helps police solve 5,000 cases

by Steve Suwannarat

The city-state of Singapore currently has 90,000 surveillance cameras, but that number could more than double in a few years. Civil society groups view them as a tool of control, but since they were installed, some crimes have dropped by 70 per cent while they have proven useful in tracking missing people.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – The city-state of Singapore has one of the highest densities of surveillance cameras in the world.

Some 90,000 are currently in place, but the authorities plan to have 200,000 by the end of this decade. 

Long viewed with suspicion for the possibility of control they offer to a government that has made stability and security a mantra, today their presence is increasingly intertwined with other aspects of daily life.

The latest police data indicate that 5,000 cases have been solved in Singapore so far with the use of video cameras since their introduction in 2012. 

For the police, they have “proven to be an invaluable source of investigative leads.” Now offenders can be more easily identified and their movements monitored.

While video cameras cannot replace traditional investigative actions, which remain essential to define legal responsibilities, they are increasingly proving to be a deterrent in cases of harassment, crimes against property, and car theft with a 70 per cent drop last year over 2015.

Cameras are also beneficial in locating missing people. Not only do they aid search for missing people in different places and situations, but they also help (within certain limits) predict their movements and track them down by cross-referencing data about their habits with the predictive data of special imaging software.

In exceptional situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, the video camera system has helped identify critical issues related to emergency management and social distancing, getting around certain problems to make interventions more effective or appropriate.

Faced with pressure from civil society groups who fear Singapore might be turning into a police state, cameras are deployed at locations “which only cover public spaces within their field of view”, said Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police (DAC) Kenneth Nge.

As for the very delicate issue of personal data, including images, the latter goes on to say that “The footage is securely stored, and only authorised persons are allowed to assess them for official purpose. Any person found assessing them for unauthorised purposes will be severely dealt with.”

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