Thieves, beware: The cars are watching

Thieves, beware: The cars are watching
Pasir Ris resident Ray Ng volunteered his in-car camera to guard against crime, as part of the Vehicles-On-Watch scheme, and will submit footage to the police if it is required. Carparks involved in the pilot phase of this scheme are identified by a white-and-blue sign (right) at their entrances.

An extra set of eyes has been watching over 40 of Singapore's carparks for the past five months.

The Straits Times has learnt that Bedok Police Division launched a high-tech crime prevention initiative in May, in which cameras installed in about 400 cars - all belonging to public volunteers - keep a lookout for theft and vandalism.

Motorists with cameras already installed can volunteer for the Vehicles-On-Watch scheme.

Some gadgets are switched on 24 hours a day, while others are kept on standby when cars are parked but start recording when they detect motion.

Video recordings can be used to assist in police investigations. In February, camera footage from a van helped police nab a thief who stole items from the vehicle in Geylang. He was charged in court and jailed for 18 months.

Although Vehicles-On-Watch has yet to be called into any similar action, residents in the area support the scheme.

Technical manager Ray Ng signed up to help keep his Pasir Ris neighbourhood safe "at no cost". The 50-year-old installed a camera on the rear-view mirror of his Hyundai Tucson in 2012 after it was "ransacked" when he forgot to lock it. He lost around $200 worth of items, including a CashCard, parking coupons and watches.

"My camera is on 24 hours anyway," he said. "All I need to do is to supply footage to the police if anything happens.

"This preventive measure will make potential criminals think twice before they do anything."

Carparks involved in the pilot phase of this programme include those in Changi, Bedok, Marine Parade, Geylang, Tampines and Pasir Ris. They are identified by a white-and-blue sign at their entrances, which reads: "Your Camera, Our Security."

A poll of 20 residents living at Block 940, Tampines Avenue 5, shows they are "fully supportive" of the initiative but are worried about a potential loss of privacy.

While car cameras are not new, the signs put up serve as a reminder to the public that they are being watched.

Housewife Fiona Goh, 54, said: "It's a creative idea to keep the neighbourhood safe but now I'm very self-conscious when passing by vehicles. You don't know what might be captured."

Student Timothy Thio, 15, said: "My classmates sometimes loiter in the carparks to have a chat or just hang out. With the signs, I think they will stop now."

Police said in a statement that they encourage car owners to join this initiative to fight crime in their neighbourhood. Drivers are also urged to check that they have not left behind their keys or valuables before leaving their vehicles.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alvin Moh warned criminals: "Even the cars are watching you now."

This article was first published on Sep 30, 2014.
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