In a statement on Sunday, the Singapore Police announced that more than 62,000 police cameras have been installed at 10,000 HDBs and multi-storey carparks.
The initiative named PolCam 1.0 was launched in April 2012, and it was reported that as of May 2016, 2,300 video clips from the police cameras have provided leads that helped solve 1,100 cases, including unlicensed moneylending, theft and outrage of modesty.
Launch of PolCam 2.0; 50 more CCTVs in Little India
The news also reported an expansion of the initiative with the launch of PolCam 2.0, which would see the installation of cameras in town centres, neighbourhood centres, hawker centres and walkways leading to MRT stations and bus interchanges.
So far, cameras have been installed at Ang Mo Kio, Bedok and Jurong Gateway, and 11,000 more cameras are set to be put at at over 2,500 locations over the next the four years.
Deputy Commission of Police Lau Peet Meng said, “The expansion of police cameras to other public areas in the neighbourhood and town centres will further strengthen the police’s ability to deter, detect and solve crimes.”
In light of curbing public drinking during restricted hours in the Little India Liquor Control Zone (LCZ), Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam has also announced yesterday that 50 additional CCTV cameras might be installed by the end of next year. The zone already has 34 installed in the area.
With the recent spate of news regarding the cameras, Singaporeans have been rather divided on their opinions.
Some weren’t very excited about the move;
some expressed their enthusiasm;
while others took this as a chance to make a jab at the recent bank robbery at Holland Village:
In general, the consensus still stood that if cameras were to be installed, they’d better be effective in curbing crime, and not just put there for surveillance of ordinary Singaporeans.
So Many Cameras, But Who’s Actually Watching?
With thousands of cameras monitoring the limited square feet that Singapore has, one should imagine that there is a corresponding number of eyes that are keeping tabs on them.
Unfortunately, the reality still stands that the cameras are more as a means of recording footage that can be played back for leads and evidence when needed.
This is not to say that the cameras are a one-trick pony, though. As observed by GRC MPs and Town Councils, the presence of the cameras have helped reduce the instances of loanshark harassment, illegal parking and litterbugs.
Member of Parliament also mentioned that “residents generally welcome the reassurance that such surveillance provides”, and one even stated that residents often requested that more cameras be put up than taken down.
Camera Surveillance: Both a Prevention and a Cure?
The presence of cameras can also “help create the habit of proper behaviour [when] reinforced with communal norms of right and wrong,” observed NUS sociologist Daniel Goh.
Communal norms are usually meted out to citizens from childhood through formal education (civics and moral education classes in school) and interaction with others, and inculcates definitions of what a particular society perceives as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
Facebook users have also suggested that instead of simply having the camera feeds linked to the Police, Singaporeans should also be able to access them in the spirit of ‘community policing’ and ‘playing their part’.
While the definition of ‘community policing‘ is when police officers are allocated to certain communities to build ties with residents in a bid to work closely with them to deter crime (think: neighbourhood police posts), what he is probably referring to is when Singaporeans play their part in staying vigilant to suspicious behaviour and crime around them.
In recent months, various part of the world have been struck by tragedies which involve people purposefully hurting others.
While Singapore remains relatively safe, reading the newspapers every day has familiarised Singaporeans with the fear of terrorism and how vulnerable we all are.
The installation of police cameras, unfortunately, would not be able to completely alleviate the threats that loom, but they can act as a deterrence, especially if utilised alongside civilian vigilance.
And perhaps at this point of time, these are the best forms of self-defence we can engage in.