Hawk-eye cameras to keep close watch on the city, able to zoom in on faces & cars

NEW high-rise surveillance cameras that can zoom in up to 60 times will be installed on selected buildings in the city by the end of this year.

Two of these eyes-in-the-sky cameras will be deployed on each of three "strategic buildings" in Marina Bay for a start, said a police operations department spokesman at the annual Police Workplan Seminar and Exhibition yesterday.

They will complement street-level Public Camera Zone cameras installed in more than 150 locations across the island.

While the super-zoom Hawk Eye cameras will be able to resolve faces and number plates even from up high, police said there will be "active masking" on certain angles to ensure privacy.

"This means we will programme the cameras to blur out and mosaic certain angles, such as of hotel rooms," said the spokesman.

The long-range camera was one of a number of new technologies in the police showcase.

Also unveiled was the X-Pole camera, a camera-on-a-stick that lets officers see behind obstacles and the tops of large vehicles, and a camera-mounted undercarriage screening device. These will be rolled out for trial later this year.

Another camera innovation was the Criminal Investigation Department's new 3D Laser Scanner, which can create a panoramic digital snapshot of a crime scene in six minutes when it would have previously taken forensic officers up to a day.

"Technology will allow the police to continue to deliver high-quality professional services to the public, while optimising the allocation of manpower resources," said Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran in his address at the Home Team Academy.

Besides the technology advances, two Neighbourhood Police Centres will be built, in Geylang and Bidadari, over the next five years.

Mr Iswaran and Deputy Commissioner of Police Raja Kumar also fielded questions from more than 200 junior college and polytechnic students at an inaugural dialogue to engage young people on Singapore's security.

One hot topic was regarding foreigners in Singapore. A student from Republic Polytechnic asked if the growing number would influence Singaporeans to commit serious crimes.

Mr Iswaran replied that most foreigners' motivation in being here was economic and that it was against their interest to go to jail.

Another student expressed concern that because foreigners did not see themselves as part of the community, the police's reliance on the community to solve crimes would be hampered.

But the minister said that while some foreigners knew they were not here for the long haul, many had been drawn here because of the security and were eager to keep Singapore safe.

"I don't think that in general - and crime statistics bear that out as well - that they (foreigners) are more prone to crime than the average Singaporean," he said.