ORDINARY residents are increasingly turning to security cameras to protect their homes and catch intruders in the act.
Shops selling closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems have reported an increase in sales over the past few years, as the equipment gets cheaper and people become more security-conscious.
Most of the store owners who spoke to The Straits Times said residents make up at least half of their clients, compared to just a handful in the past.
"Some customers install CCTV cameras inside the house to monitor their maids, for example," said sales engineer Wellson Lee of Shindae Technologies.
"Others place them near the door and gate area to deter break-ins and vandalism."
Deterring loan-shark harassment is one of the key reasons for residents buying CCTV systems, said Mr Calvin Tan, owner of Assista InfoComm & Security.
About three years ago, a camera cost about $400. Shindae Technologies sold about 120 a year - around a fifth of which went to residents, mostly in private property.
Now, a unit costs about $250. Half of the 240 cameras sold by Shindae last year went to residents, with a 50-50 split between HDB flats and private homes.
At security services firm Innotec Solutions, about 200 to 300 units were sold last year, more than double the tally in 2011. Home owners bought 60 per cent of them, with the rest sold to businesses.
But some customers are opting for an even cheaper option - China-made dummy CCTV cameras.
Mustafa Centre sells one of the cheapest models on the market.
It costs just $5.50 and the 24-hour department store has been selling about 200 to 300 of them each month for the past three years.
At surveillance equipment supplier SGspycam, dummy CCTV camera sales have increased at least fivefold. The firm sells about 50 a month, up from about five to 10 when it started stocking them three years ago.
Some residents told The Straits Times that they had resorted to putting up the dummy cameras at their doorsteps to scare off loanshark runners.
"We had our door splashed with red and black paint five to six times last year," said housewife Susan Liam, who lives in a rental block in the MacPherson area.
The 51-year-old's family installed a fake camera as they were worried about their 10-year-old son. "Now, with the camera, there's no more problem."
Ms Nadira Aljunied, who lives in the same block, admits that loan sharks may recognise which cameras are real and which are fake.
But that has not stopped the 31-year-old, who is unemployed, from installing a dummy camera after her family had to repaint their flat due to vandalism last Hari Raya.
"Strangers walk around at night quite a few times a week so this is worth a try," she said.
The police made 1,903 arrests involving unlicensed moneylending and harassment cases last year across Singapore, up from 1,508 in 2010.
SGspycam store assistant Edward Quah said customers sometimes buy a mix of real and fake cameras because of a tight budget.
Some town councils also outfit their blocks with both real and dummy CCTV systems to reduce costs.
The police plan to install as many as 23,600 new surveillance cameras in HDB estates over the next few years. Last year, cameras were installed in 350 HDB blocks and their coverage will be extended to another 650 blocks by the end of this year.
The cameras have helped to solve crimes.
Police told The Straits Times that they have cracked at least six cases based on video footage obtained from their CCTV network since it was piloted last April.
Eighty-four other pieces of video footage were used in follow-up investigations.
This story was first published in The Straits Times on May 7, 2013
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