Singapore police tap technology to keep crime at bay

The in-vehicle video recording system will be rolled out in police fast-response cars islandwide starting next month. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
The in-vehicle video recording system will be rolled out in police fast-response cars islandwide starting next month. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Gadgets help crack cases without need for more cops

The police unveiled devices designed to help the force put more eyes on the ground last Friday, as part of a plan to tap technology to keep crime at bay, without the need for more manpower.

The gadgets include cameras mounted on police fast-response cars and worn by officers to record patrols and when they attend to emergency 999 cases.

There are also plans to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at all HDB blocks. Video footage recovered from the cameras has so far helped the police nab suspects, from rioters and molesters to loan shark runners.

Last Tuesday, an unemployed man was charged with the murder of an elderly woman at the lift of a Choa Chu Kang housing block. Police said the suspect was nabbed with the help of CCTV footage.

"The success of these cameras (in cracking cases, such as of harassment in unlicensed moneylending offences) led to the decision to deploy police cameras comprehensively to provide round-the-clock deterrence and rapid follow-up for investigation," said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, guest of honour at the annual Police Workplan Seminar last Friday.

Here are how the new devices work.


In-vehicle video recording system

  • The current model records 156 degrees in front of the car, and 140 degrees towards the back. Police are aiming eventually for 360-degree coverage through the use of multiple cameras
  • The new model records in high definition throughout a full 12-hour shift, with video stored on the device's memory card. In future, police plan to have live-streaming capability from the central operations rooms
  • Officers can play back clips from inside the vehicle using the unit's LCD screen. Police said protocols are in place to prevent the footage from being tampered with
  • The model will be rolled out in police fast-response cars islandwide starting next month, with all such cars to be equipped by the middle of next year

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Body-worn camera

  • Resembling a pager and lighter than a smartphone at 79g, the camera is clipped onto an officer's uniform at chest level, and can record in high definition for up to eight hours continuously
  • The unit integrates a battery and onboard storage, and has only one moving part: the sliding on-off switch. This means officers can only record, not view or edit footage
  • Officers will record clips when responding to cases lodged via 999 calls. The recording of other interactions will be up to the officers' discretion, and they will be trained to inform members of the public that their interactions are being filmed
  • Encryption ensures that clips can be extracted from the recorders only by the police
  • The pilot for the cameras will begin here next month at a Neighbourhood Police Centre
  • The cameras have been deployed overseas, notably in seven United States police departments

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Mobicams

  • Designed to put more electronic eyes in crime hot spots quickly on a semi-permanent basis, Mobicams can be deployed within three days
  • Equipped with a fisheye lens, the system can see 180 degrees. Live monitoring capabilities allow officers to pan, tilt and zoom the camera remotely
  • The camera can record continuously for 30 days, while batteries can last for a fortnight
  • Attempts to interfere with the system, which is tamper-resistant, will set off an alarm. A secondary camera monitors its batteries and hardware
  • The cameras will be deployed using a leasing model, which police said will help reduce upfront hardware and obsolescence costs. The cameras can be installed both indoors and outdoors, increasing the flexibility of use
  • A number of Mobicams have been deployed in the city area, including areas close to nightspots

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CCTV at HDB blocks

  • For round-the-clock deterrence and faster follow-up investigations, the police aim to install cameras at 10,000 HDB blocks and multi-storey carparks by the fourth quarter of 2016
  • More than 2,000 blocks and multi-storey carparks across all 16 town councils have had such cameras installed, since the roll-out
  • began in 2012. The remaining 7,000-plus cameras will be set up in three phases over the next two years
  • The cameras are installed at key points of human and vehicle traffic flow, such as at lift lobbies, staircase landings and vehicle exits and entrances
  • Police said the cameras are placed such that they do not face homes, to mitigate privacy concerns
  • The cameras have helped police crack cases, including armed robbery as well as unlicensed moneylending harassment cases, which fell from a peak of over 18,000 in 2009 to 8,300 last year

yanliang@sph.com.sg