More 'eyes' on the ground for police

Starting next month , police patrol cars will be equipped with special cameras that will record their patrols, as well as what happens when police officers attend to cases.

These new "eyes" on the ground will supplement recently announced plans to equip ground officers with body-worn cameras and install street cameras that can be quickly deployed in crime-prone areas.

Areas such as Little India, Geylang and Marina Bay, which are already "public camera zones", will also see more cameras deployed, and a new zone will be introduced along Orchard Road.

These new surveillance initiatives were announced at the Police Workplan Seminar yesterday, as part of an overall push by the force to leverage more on the use of cameras in policing.

Fast response cars installed with the in-vehicle video recorders will begin their pilot islandwide next month.

These cameras are designed to record video both in front of the vehicle and behind it, with the clips stored in the unit's memory.

The police plan to equip all fast response cars here with the in-vehicle recorders by mid-next year, which will be eventually improved so they are able to record 360-degrees around the vehicle and stream the footage "live" to central operations rooms.

Meanwhile, the body-worn cameras will also be deployed next month, starting with officers at one Neighbourhood Police Centre. Police officers equipped with the new body-worn cameras, which resemble pagers and are clipped to their chests, will be trained to inform members of the public that their interactions are being filmed.

Processes are in place to ensure that footage recorded by both the body-worn and in-vehicle cameras is not tampered with, said a police spokesman.

The use of such closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage has proven useful in the fight against unlicensed moneylending, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in a speech at the event. Cases of unlicensed moneylending fell from a peak of over 18,000 reported in 2009, to some 8,300 cases last year.

"The success of these cameras led to the decision to deploy police cameras comprehensively to provide round-the-clock deterrence and rapid follow-up for investigation," said Mr Teo.

Speaking at a dialogue session with some 200 tertiary students yesterday afternoon, Deputy Commissioner of Police T. Raja Kumar said that an ongoing project to install cameras at the 10,000 HDB blocks islandwide has been favourably received by the community, with many residents asking when their block will be next.

He said that the police have been mindful about issues of privacy and not overstepping boundaries, ensuring that the cameras do not face homes and capture only traffic in and out of the blocks.

"I think we have, over the years, won the trust of the community: that they can trust us and rely on us to do the job in an honest manner," he added.

Moulmein-Kallang GRC Member of Parliament Denise Phua said that the recent installation of more CCTV cameras in Little India following the Dec 8 riot was welcomed by some residents. Last month, four South Asian men caught fighting on camera in Chander Road were arrested by police the next day.

"I do not think they fear their privacy is compromised now due to the introduction of CCTVs at public places," she said.

This article was published on May 3 in The Straits Times.

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