Coffee, tea and CCTV - eateries step up security

Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffeeshop in Toa Payoh is one of about 400 coffee shops that have installed surveillance cameras (such as the one on the ceiling) as an added security measure in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Europe.
Chang Cheng Mee Wah Coffeeshop in Toa Payoh is one of about 400 coffee shops that have installed surveillance cameras (such as the one on the ceiling) as an added security measure in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Europe.ST PHOTO: DOMINIC TEO

Coffee shop bodies urge 700-plus members to install cameras; staff will be trained in safety measures

The next time you have your meal at a coffee shop, a pair of electronic eyes may be watching you.

In the light of the recent terror attacks in Europe, local coffee shops are installing closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras for added security. The two coffee shop associations are pushing their more than 700 members to put up 24-hour surveillance cameras, and about 400 have already done so.

The cameras will show the stalls and surrounding areas. Workers will be trained to look out for suspicious individuals, said Mr Thomas Foo, chairman of the Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant and Bar Owners Association, which represents more than 300 coffee shops. The Foochow Coffee Restaurant & Bar Merchants Association has 400 members.

On Tuesday, coordinated terrorist attacks in the Belgian capital of Brussels killed 31 people and wounded 270.

With the terror threat at its highest level in decades, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam last Friday announced a major upgrade of counter-terrorism measures.

Singapore will strengthen security, installing more CCTV cameras in public places and training emergency response teams to react swiftly to attacks, among other things.

Stallholders and employees of both coffee shop associations will attend workshops by the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Force, and learn how to fire-proof stalls and use fire extinguishers, among other tips.

Setting up the cameras will cost about $4,000 for each coffee shop, but operators can claim 60 per cent of costs under the Government's Productivity and Innovation Credit scheme, said Mr Foo. "The CCTVs also improve productivity because during less busy times... the coffee shop operators can check if workers are doing their jobs from their mobile phones and laptops," he said.

Some coffee shop owners are reluctant to install the cameras because they do not know how to use them, he noted.

Not so coffee shop chains Chang Cheng Mee Wah and Kim San Leng, which have had CCTV cameras on their premises for at least seven years. "We can watch when the stocks arrive and, if anything happens, like fights, at least we have a recording of it," said Mr Alfred Hoon, a manager at Kim San Leng.

At Chang Cheng coffee shop in Braddell, drinks stall worker Loh Moh Eng, 58, said a new CCTV system was installed last week to replace the old one, which was of poor quality. Said Mrs Loh: "If we see anything suspicious, we'll just call the police as we've always been doing."

And the cameras are so discreetly placed that some customers have not even noticed them. Restaurant manager Joseph Tan, 33, who visits the coffee shop thrice a week, said: "I haven't noticed that they installed the CCTV but I think it's good. In case there are fights or thefts, the police can track the culprits down."

  • Additional reporting by Dominic Teo 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2016, with the headline 'Coffee, tea and CCTV - eateries step up security'. Print Edition | Subscribe